Frequently Asked Questions

GENERAL
FOOD-RELATED
RELIGIOUS

General

A: Adults (18+) are welcome to attend the Training Institute. Childcare is available for an extra fee if you would like to bring your family.

We create pluralistic, multi-generational community to reconnect us to the earth-based traditions of Judaism. We build villages to include all people. People who identify as Jewish or not, interfaith couples and families, those who identify as LGBTQ*IA, people of color, and anyone who wants to participate are welcome to join in building village together. Please see below for more about religious pluralism at Wilderness Torah.

A: Wilderness Torah is a drug- and alcohol-free environment. This is a spiritual community and our events are family-friendly. Our primary goals are to build connections among ourselves, community, earth, and Spirit. We will provide a modest amount of wine for ritual purposes.
A: For the Training Institute, you should be comfortable in the outdoors, and previous camping experience is nice, though not required. For a camping trip, the training will be pretty easy! You don’t need to hike in with your gear (your car will be close by and we will have wheelbarrows available for transporting your gear).

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be served to you, and there are portable toilets and a couple of outdoor showers. Temperatures may vary greatly depending on the coastal fog and wind. We’ve experienced large rainstorms in the past, as well as bright, sunny days. There are a few indoor areas on the land for some protection.

A: 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.
A: Pets are not allowed at our events due to wilderness rules and the desire to keep the focus on people and ritual space.
A: Make an offline payment as follows:

  1. On payment page, click Show other payment options below the Order Now button
  2. Click Pay Offline
  3. Enter name and email and click Pay By Check
  4. Confirm your order
  5. Mail your check, payable to Wilderness Torah, to Wilderness Torah, 2095 Rose Street, Suite 202, Berkeley, CA 94709.

Religious Practice, Halacha (Jewish Law) & Pluralism

Wilderness Torah creates a big tent filled with people from all kinds of religious and cultural backgrounds, bound together by a connection to nature. We work hard to create spaces where people with a range of practices are welcome. We think building pluralistic community is a fun challenge and causes us to think creatively about the meaning of our traditions and how we practice them.

While we strive to be as inclusive as possible, we also acknowledge that we cannot please everyone. Clarifying how we do things is an ongoing process and we appreciate your input.

People who attend our events and festivals include:

  • Jews who identify by many denominations (Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal, Conservative, Modern Orthodox)
  • Many who identify as “Just Jewish” or “Jew-ish”
  • Those in the early stages of returning to Judaism
  • Jews by choice
  • People who are not Jewish and are either married or partnered to a Jew, or are simply interested in the beauty of Judaism and what it has to offer

Here are some details about our religious observance so you can clarify whether Wilderness Torah is a match for your practices:


A: We strive to bring Judaism alive by making our ancient traditions relevant for today. We also aim to support the full range of Jewish observance with a kosher kitchen, a shomer Shabbat supportive community, and opportunities for the full spectrum of prayer preference.

Our events are designed to allow for everyone’s individual practice as much as possible. You will find that some people use flashlights on Shabbat while some refrain. Some take pictures and some don’t. Some don’t know why this is even an issue. That’s great! Your own personal observance level may vary and that is fine.
Because the Training Institute is a small gathering, we will not host multiple service options as we do during our festivals, but rather will hold one prayer space that will be as inclusive as possible. We invite everyone to take care of personal needs in prayer and are open to discussing how and if we can support your particular needs. Please inquire if this of concern.
We especially ask each participant to respect others’ observance levels. Also, if you are curious about someone’s observance, just ask! It’s a great time to learn in a supportive community.

A: All our food and kitchen equipment is kosher. Our events are mostly vegetarian with some fish (of which you may easily opt out). On special occasions we may choose to serve meat. When we do, we will ensure that it is kosher and completely segregated from our dairy and vegetarian kosher kitchen equipment.

In making its food choices, Wilderness Torah prepares food according to the highest ethical standards, including kosher, local, organic, seasonal, humane, and socially just. Wilderness Torah prioritizes sourcing fresh, unprocessed foods, and when choosing processed or packaged foods, aims to purchase certified kosher foods.
Wilderness Torah may at times prioritize certain values, such as local or organic, over kosher-certified. When such a choice is warranted, we will share such decisions openly, and a kosher option will be available. Examples:

  1. We purchased local, homemade, organic bagels for Shavuot that were not kosher. We had kosher bread choices available.
  2. Raw, local, organic honey was gifted to us. We had kosher honey available.

Our kitchen is kosher, however we do not employ a mashgiach (someone who supervises kashrut, the guidelines for keeping kosher). Please ask if you want more details on how we prepare and maintain kashrut in our wilderness kitchen.

A: Shabbat (Friday evening to Saturday evening) marks the seventh day of creation, the Sabbath, when we rest from acts of doing, making, and creating. We strive to make Shabbat comfortable to those holding the halacha (Jewish law) of Shabbat, while accommodating the spectrum of needs in the village.

For example, we honor Shabbat by not making fire (though fires started before Shabbat may continue until they go out). We also do not cook meals on Shabbat (we still prepare delicious food, however, and sometimes eat hot food prepared before Shabbat that is kept warm with special earthen heat-retention technology).

To honor the spectrum of Shabbat observance, there will be instruments used for our communal Kabbalat Shabbat (the pre-Shabbat service that welcomes in Shabbat), but not for maariv (the service that occurs after Shabbat has begun) once Shabbat candles are lit.

A: Exceptions to Shabbat observance include the following:

  • Due to the rustic nature of living outside, we make certain halachic (Jewish legal) exceptions for the health, safety, and comfort of the community. For example, the kitchen prepares hot water during Shabbat for people to have warm drinks if they choose and to ensure that hot dishwater is available to maintain proper sanitation in the kitchen. We also provide hot water that was heated before Shabbat for those who observe.

  • We use a small generator to power a genius invention called a “cool-bot” that keeps our food fresh (it’s a homemade refrigerated trailer). We turn this generator off at night when it’s cool to save energy and so that we can’t hear its whir at night. This means that on Shabbat, we will turn off the generator on Friday night and turn it back on early Saturday morning, if necessary, to protect the food of the village.

  • The village has a spectrum of observance. While one person observes all the mitzvot (commandments/opportunities for holy acts), others may not—so you will see flashlights, cameras, and other devices used by individuals during Shabbat. Wilderness Torah does not ask individuals to refrain from their personal practice, but simply to be aware and respectful of different approaches to holding the traditions.

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