Teen Neshama Quest

Upcoming Trip: Tuesday, July 30 – Monday, August 5, 2024
Applications Now Open!

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Wilderness Torah offers teens (14-17 years old) an unforgettable and immersive wilderness adventure!

Neshama is one of the Hebrew words for “soul”. As we travel beyond the beaten path, connecting with the wilderness around us and within, we can hear the quiet voice of Neshama guiding our steps.

At Neshama Quest teens backpack together with adult mentors in the Californian mountain wilderness. Participants will experience backcountry & ancestral skills, illuminating sharing circles, earth-based Jewish practices and initiatory challenges.

Note: Depending on the trip, teens need to be able to carry 40–50 lb backpacks and hike 5–10 miles per day.

Testimonials from Teens

Neshama Quest was not just a backpacking trip, but a grounding and jewish experiance that led me to learn a lot about myself and my connection to nature. If you are considering joining NQ, do it! It is so worth it.

Neshama Quest Attendee

Meet Your Teen Neshama Quest Leaders

Lila Rimalovski

Sam Balka

Questions? Email youth@wildernesstorah.org

Pillars of the Program

  • Thriving in the wilderness: Participants learn how to make do with the things they can carry in their backpacks. They cook together by an alpine lake, set up simple shelters under the stars, collect wild water, and honorably wander the land.
  • Inclusive Jewish community: Everyone is welcome, regardless of how they relate to Jewish identity. We draw upon Jewish wisdom traditions that help ground our experience and bring our attention toward the awe inspiring world we live in.
  • Shabbat in the mountains: This is a chance to truly rest and enjoy – without technology and media, far away from grocery stores and homework. We will take the Shabbat as a time to restore our bodies, minds, and spirits. We will enjoy the good company of the Neshama Quest community.
  • Solo-challenges: Each teen is given the opportunity to head out alone into the wild for Hitbodedut – a “solo” experience. Guidance from experienced mentors makes the challenge safe; yet the edge is real, and it is at this edge where real insight and wisdom emerge!
  • Climbing a peak: The tops of mountains are central to the Jewish mythical landscape. The Torah was received on the top of a mountain in the desert. The holiest temples sat on a mountaintop in Jerusalem. As part of Neshama Quest, we will attempt to climb a mountain and connect with the spiritual power available to us there.
  • Day 1: Drive to the trailhead and get ready for our adventure.
  • Day 2: Hike into the wilderness, learn new skills, swim, explore, and make new friends. 
  • Day 3: Travel further and higher to our next campsite, swim some more, and prepare for the peak attempt.
  • Day 4: Climb a mountain peak. Experience “Solo” time. Enjoy Kabbalat Shabbat in the wilderness!
  • Day 5: Shabbat in the wilderness! Music, more swimming, exploring and games – rest, rejuvenation and wonder.
  • Day 6: Pack up camp and start heading back, but not before we make it to another gorgeous wilderness campsite.
  • Day 7: Pack up camp, hike out, and head home to share stories with friends and family.

In recent years we’ve seen increasing danger of wildfires, partly due to climate change and a century of suppression of the natural fire ecology of California. We will monitor wildfires and smoke closely, changing the area we will be traveling through if needed, and rescheduling in the rare case that no area is safe for us to travel.

All food served by Wilderness Torah is kosher, except for a few small exceptions. 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. Example: We purchased local, homemade, organic bagels that were not kosher but we had kosher bread choices available.

Program Fees & Deadlines:

  • Refer-a-friend: $1700 ($100 discount)
  • Regular Fee: $1,800


Registration Timeline

  • Parents begin the Application form
  • Teens fill out the Teen portion of the form (we encourage them to fill this out on their own)
  • Parents will receive an email to confirm receipt of the application. Applications will then be reviewed.
  • 1-2 weeks after application is submitted, check your email for follow up communication and an invitation to complete the registration process.
  • Complete the registration form.
  • Submit payment

Payment is required with registration.

Participants will receive more information about location, packing list, and the pre-trip gathering upon registration.

Limited scholarships are available.

As part of the application process, you will have the chance to indicate your interest in receiving a scholarship.

Know a young adult who would like Neshama Quest? Check out our Neshama Quest for Young Adults trips!