South Charlotte

35 trees to be planted at Charlotte’s Hebrew Cemetery

On Feb. 8, in honor of the Jewish holiday Tu B’Shvat, the Hebrew Cemetery Association, in conjunction with TreesCharlotte, will plant 35 trees at the Hebrew Cemetery in Charlotte.

The Hebrew Cemetery was founded in 1867 and “has a natural, park-like setting with beautiful trees and shrubs,” said Sandra Goldman, director of the Hebrew Cemetery Association and a Stonehaven resident.

The Hebrew Cemetery already has hosted other Jewish community holiday services.

In Hebrew, Tu B’Shvat means the 15th of the Jewish month of Shvat, a day designated the “birthday” or New Year of Trees. Traditionally, Tu B’Shvat is celebrated with the planting of trees and the eating of fruits or nuts that are the product of trees.

“Historically, (Tu B’Shvat) was an agriculture festival for the ancient Hebrews that dates back to the year 500 A.D.,” said Brian Yesowitch, president of the Hebrew Cemetery Association and an Olde Heritage resident. “In modern Israel, it’s considered the national Arbor Day.

“In America, the holiday has taken on an ecological message that includes responsible land stewardship and tree planting.”

With the expansion of the cemetery grounds, the association was interested in planting trees to add beauty and shade, so Goldman contacted TreesCharlotte.

“TreesCharlotte is a private-public collaborative who works with the city of Charlotte, community members and businesses to address Charlotte’s commitment to increase and maintain the tree canopy,” said Tammy Seigel, program director for TreesCharlotte and a Stonehaven resident. “Education about the benefits of trees in an urban environment is a primary component of TreesCharlotte’s effort to raise awareness about the value of trees.”

TreesCharlotte has planted 11,000 trees since its inception in late 2012. Its goal is to plant 15,000 trees per year to achieve 50 percent tree coverage in Charlotte by 2050, said Seigel.

Charlotte currently is ranked among the top five cities nationally, with 47 percent tree coverage, she said.

“Charlotte has for years been a TreeCity USA per the Arbor Day Foundation,” said Davidson resident Dave Cable, executive director of TreesCharlotte.

To meet their goal of planting 15,000 trees per year, TreesCharlotte needs community volunteers, neighborhoods and private companies to help.

“The city plants street trees, trees planted in public land and plants trees for capital projects,” wrote Cable in an email. “Because less than 10 percent of the canopy is located on public land, private land was needed for plantings to meet the goal. TreesCharlotte creates the opportunity to rally the community to plant on both private and public lands by plantings in neighborhoods, communities of faith, parks, school and affordable-housing sites.”

“TreesCharlotte pays for the trees with money donated by individuals, foundations, and corporate sponsors,” said Seigel.

There are 50 varieties of trees from which TreesCharlotte can choose to plant. Some are native and some are not, but all are “compatible with the needs of a diversified urban forest,” said Cable.

“A primary goal of TreesCharlotte is to diversify the urban forest by planting a wide variety of trees,” said Cable. “Our trees are grown specifically for TreesCharlotte by North Carolina growers, and they are 2 to 5 years in age.”

On Feb. 8, volunteers at the Hebrew Cemetery will plant 35 trees, including Arborvitae, Fringe trees, Ginkgo Biloba, Serviceberry, Jane and Sweetbay Magnolia, Cryptomerias, and White Oak. These varieties were chosen based on their appearance, hardiness and appropriateness in a cemetery, said Yesowitch.

“We’re a Jewish cemetery with nearly 150 years of landscaping. We are very proud of our mature tree canopy and hope to make our expanded grounds resemble the historic portions of the cemetery,” Yesowitch said.

Goldman said, “I would like to see that, through this hands-on project, people will lose the natural fear that so many carry with them when they go to a cemetery.

“I hope they will take ownership and pride in these nearly 150-year-old grounds.”