About the Wilderness Torah Training Institute


The Experience

Wilderness Torah Training Institute offers a learning journey into ancient approaches to Jewish wisdom and community, nature connection, and youth mentoring. These technologies are simple and profound. Over the weeklong training, you will:
  • Awaken your personal connection to nature and Judaism
  • Experience ways to bring Judaism alive for disengaged youth
  • Receive training in the magic and methods behind B’naiture and B’hootz, Wilderness Torah’s award-winning, transformational K–12 Jewish youth programs
  • Engage in refreshing approaches to co-creating Jewish “village” life
  • Connect with like-minded people in a vibrant, village context
For a taste of the Training Institute, listen to this excerpt from last year’s training — a lesson on Melachot & Handcrafts:


Upon completion of the Training Institute, you will receive certification based on the your level of completion. All first year trainees enter Level I. We offer subsequent levels of training to deepen your knowledge and embodied experience so you can eventually step into the role of trainer yourself.

The Level I training experience provides introductory experiences in nature connection, challenges, and mentorship techniques that weave in Jewish traditions. You will also learn approaches to earth-based Judaism, foundational pedagogical tools, and how to bring primitive handcrafts and Jewish ritual alive.

Level I provides a foundation to Jewish nature-based youth mentoring. Every journey takes a first step. We invite you to join us on this journey of discovery!

Upon completion of this summer institute, you will receive Level I certification.

Level II takes participants on an journey of advanced nature connection practices and challenges, providing additional instruction and experience of how to integrate Jewish tradition through mentorship. Level II participants become part of a small, unique tribe dedicated to honing mentorship skills, deepening nature connection, and advancing understanding of earth-based Judaism. Level II participants are invited to prepare for and experience an overnight Fire Solo initiation ceremony, a la B’naiture.

Participating in Level II requires Level I certification or special permission.

Upon completion, you will receive Level II certification.

Level III takes participants deeper into their learning journey with a special focus on honing real-time mentorship skills. At Level III, you work alongside experienced Wilderness Torah mentors as apprentice mentors, integrating your learning and experiences by mentoring newer trainees. Participants receive special training, support, and feedback to help strengthen and refine mentorship skills.

Participating in Level III requires Level I & II certification or special permission.

Upon completion you will receive Level III certification.

The Elements

For seven days, immerse yourself in village-building, learning, and experiential workshops while surrounded by a beautiful redwood forest of the Santa Cruz mountains!

Earth-based Judaism Fundamentals:

  • Core Texts from Torah, Kabbalah, Chasidut, and others
  • Earth-based holiday traditions and celebrations
  • Hebrew songs and stories that connect us to the natural world

8 Shields Model Fundamentals:

  • Approaches to nature connection for healthy human development
  • Art of mentoring youth, the mind of the mentor, and holistic community cultivation
  • Curriculum and leadership design using the natural learning cycle approach and the archetypes of nature
  1. Hebrew Calendar as Nature-Connection & Cultural Operating System
  2. Jewish Values for Mentoring Youth & Connecting to Nature
  3. Jewish Blessings, Songs, and Prayers for Village-Building & Earth-Connection
  4. Core Routines of Nature Connection
  5. Introduction to Nature Skills & Crafts
  6. Challenges & Edge Experiences that Support Human Growth

Once you’ve completed the training you are eligible for more coaching and consultation through Wilderness Torah.


The Training Institute is August 29 — September 4, 2017
To create unity and cohesion in the village we ask that you attend the training from beginning to end. Please arrive early enough so that you have time to check in and set up your tent before we begin, and plan return travel so you can participate fully through closing circle on Monday.

Arrival | Tuesday, Aug 29
3:00–5:00 pm: Arrival & Check-In

General Schedule | Tuesday, Aug 29 – Monday, Sept 4
Each day the schedule will weave and balance small group time, all-community learning sessions, and community village-building experiences, along with personal time to reflect, integrate, and connect to yourself and nature.

  • Morning Prayer & Hitbodedut (time alone in nature) — Every day we’ll begin by opening our hearts, opening our song, and connecting personally to nature
  • Tribe Time — Everyone will join a small group designed to awaken the senses, play in the woods, learn nature connection routines and Jewish traditions, and encounter some challenging adventures
  • Society Time — Everyone will join a small group designed to embody and learn the 8 Shields Model for nature connection, community design, and transformational mentorship
  • Village Building — Together we will build joyous, conscious community around the fire, during meals, and with a celebratory Shabbat on the land
  • Presentations — All-community lectures and presentations will provide powerful teaching and context to support your understanding of the importance and power of nature connection, earth-based Judaism, and essential tools that support the “Mind of the Mentor”

Departure | Monday, Sept 4
1:00 pm: Departure after Closing Circle

Building the Village

Your Role
The Training Institute is a co-created experience with collective service responsibilities. The success and beauty of our village rely on our agreements for living harmoniously in community.

Tribes/Societies are small, assigned groups of participants who meet throughout the training. These small groups help people get to know each other and deepen their training experience. Each tribe has a Rosh (head) who will guide the group. Your Rosh is a contact for you throughout the training and meets daily with staff to share information and feedback from participants.

Meet the Trainers & Staff

Learn more about the people behind our training!

Maggid Zelig Golden
Maggid Zelig Golden
Zelig’s vision for a thriving, earth-based Jewish tradition developed out of a lifetime of nature connection, Jewish leadership, and commitment to environmental advocacy. As Founding Director of Wilderness Torah, Zelig is one of the driving forces behind its annual cycle of land-based festivals, nature-based rites of passage, and mentorship for emerging young leaders. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union and rabbinic ordination through ALEPH, with the prestigious Wexner Graduate Fellowship. Zelig was ordained Maggid by Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi ztz”l. He previously worked as an environmental lawyer protecting food and farms and has long guided groups into the wilderness.
Rachel Erin Ruach
Rachel Erin Ruach
Rachel Erin Ruach is a cultural midwife, ceremonialist, wilderness guide, and mentor. She has trained in wilderness survival and awareness, traditional mentoring techniques, community building, rites of passage, women’s wisdom, and the ceremonial arts for the last twelve years. Recently, she has worked with the Regenerative Design Institute, the 8 shields community, Rites of Passage, and Women’s Red Tent. She also runs her own programs, including the Tree of Life Initiation journey for adult women.
Aya Baron
Aya Baron
Aya Baron has managed Wilderness Torah’s youth programs and been lead mentor for B’naiture since June, 2015. She entered this role with three years of experience in the field with Wilderness Torah and served as lead mentor for B’hootz. Currently, she is spearheading Wilderness Torah’s the launch of B’hootz in the Peninsula and building a year-round program for teens. Aya has also worked as an educator and program designer at Urban Adamah and Eden Village Camp. She is passionate about cultivating a regenerative Jewish culture, developing rites of passage experiences for youth, and working with young girls. Aya holds a degree in Contemplative Education from Brown University and studied herbal medicine at the California School of Herbal Studies.
Faryn-Beth Hart
Faryn-Beth Hart
Faryn grew up in the concrete jungle of Johannesburg, South Africa and went through tremendous mental and physical healing while managing an environmental teaching center in the forests of Brunswick, GA. This led to stewardship and activism in India, Israel, and New Orleans and eventually brought her west. She has just completed the season as Lead Mentor for Wilderness Torah’s Youth (K-2) Program and is pursuing a professional registration in horticultural therapy. She works in residential eating disorder recovery with homeless pregnant families in San Francisco and inmates at San Quentin. Faryn is excited to return to the 2017 Training Institute to continue learning and deepening relations with the land and community.
Baruch Brian Schwadron
Baruch Brian Schwadron
Baruch Brian Schwadron brings a deep passion for culture and mentorship to Wilderness Torah Training Institute. Raised on the banks of the Mississippi, Baruch has extensive training in herbalism, foraging wild foods, and nutrition. He has over 13 years of experience in international and outdoor education as well as community facilitation and holds a BA in Cultural Medicine as well as an MA in Alternative Education Systems. He served as Head Chef and Herbalist at Hearth Healing Foods and as a guide at Water of the Vine for 7 years, and now is completing an Accelerated Master’s Degree in Nursing in Chicago, IL.
Daniel Schoen
Daniel Schoen
Daniel’s journey with rites of passage work began with a five-hour Bar Mitzvah co-led by his Hebrew school teacher and a Zen monk. World-travel, extended time in the wilderness, and exposure to earth-based spirituality fueled Daniel’s passion for community-based human development. Now, as an adult with years of working as an experiential educator, Daniel supports young people on their unique path into adolescence. Daniel holds a BA in Nature and Culture from UC Davis and is a certified Wilderness First Responder. He is in his second year of studying deep nature connection and cultural mentoring at Weaving Earth, an immersion program in Sonoma County. Daniel loves tracking and bird language, playing piano and turning off his cell phone for Shabbat.
Jenya Schneider
Jenya Schneider
Jenya works as a lead mentor for Wilderness Torah’s B’naiture and Gaia Girls Passages. As an avid practitioner of natural and traditional skills, you may find her in forests foraging for food, medicine, and dyes, milking goats and preparing labne for a Middle Eastern meal, or scraping hides in her backyard. Jenya graduated from Brown University with a BA in Religious Studies and an unofficial minor in Decolonial Studies. She garnered her earth skills at Headwaters Outdoor School in Mount Shasta, CA, where she also worked alongside midwives as an assistant and doula.
Flora Goldman
Flora GoldmanTraining Institute Manager
Flora manages Wilderness Torah’s Training Institute and oversees program logistics staff. She is the project manager for the design, execution, and evaluation of Wilderness Torah’s international Training Institute and curriculum, and previously spent four years as Wilderness Torah’s Logistics Manager for the festivals, youth programs, and community programs.

Flora previously was Farm Manager for the Regenerative Design Institute, overseeing a 17-acre educational farm and its substantial volunteer program, and completed the Eco Israel program at Chava V’Adam. Flora holds a BA from the University of Colorado. She has completed holistic nutrition training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2010 and permaculture teacher training in 2011. Flora is the creator of nutritional permaculture, a new branch of the movement, and has taught in Israel and the United States.

Mikey Pauker
Mikey PaukerWilderness Torah Music Director
Mikey Pauker is a Jewish Folk/World artist who serves as music director for Wilderness Torah. He was named by TIME Magazine as one of the “10 Stars of The New Jewish Music.” His songs are inspired by mystical teachings and his personal spiritual experience and exploration and connect people from all fabrics of life and faith.

Mikey has been featured in NPR, TIME, Examiner, and Artist Direct to name a few and he has shared the stage with Matisyahu, Trevor Hall, Idan Raichel, David Broza, Moshav, Kosha Dillz, Moonzz and more. He is on the faculty for Songleader Boot Camp and is the co-founder of Merkava Mentors and SHUL: An Ecstatic Dancing Minyan.