B’naiture

Applications for the next two-year cohort (October 2024 – May 2026) will open this spring.

B’naiture

A one-of-a-kind outdoor Jewish rite-of-passage for middle schoolers
to unplug, connect, and grow.

Wilderness Coming-of-Age Journey

Begin in 6th or 7th Grade

bnaiture-logo

B’naiture is our award-winning, two-year experiential program for youth entering 6th or 7th grade. B’naiture supports the transition from childhood to adolescence through mentorship, deep nature connection and Jewish wisdom.

This program both supplements traditional B’Mitzvah education and serves families who do not choose to undertake a traditional track.

Our next two-year cohort runs October 2023-May 2025 in the East Bay, with camping trips held in the wilderness of the greater Bay Area.

Pedagogy

B’naiture is a coming-of-age journey from childhood into adolescence. Our program supports the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual passage of youth from childhood innocence into adolescence, where one opens to greater awareness of self and the world. Experienced adult and teen mentors guide each group using our four worlds holistic mentoring curriculum. Learn more about our pedagogy here.

Approach to Diversity & Inclusivity

We welcome people of all backgrounds including those who identify as Jews, those who identify as something else, those whose Jewish identity feels complicated, interfaith families, gender expansive youth, LGBTQ families, and people of color  who want to join our vibrant, unique community!

Before B’naiture my son felt disconnected from his formal Jewish education and resented his participation in traditional Hebrew School. We took a leap of faith and let him find a different program of his choosing. He found B’naiture and we found peace. He is now connected to Judaism, nature, and his community. He even asked if he could have a Bar Mitzvah.

B’naiture parent 2020-21 Season

B’naiture Parent Testimonials

I feel so much appreciation for the experience you are providing these children. Thank you for supporting their growth and their coming into their own lives.

B’naiture parent Spring 2022

AMAAAZING!!! I am SOOO THRILLED that our son is participating in this INCREDIBLE program…it’s like a dream come true for me!!! THANK YOU for making my dream come true!!!

B’naiture parent 2022

This groundbreaking program weaves Jewish teachings, story, and song with personal challenges, outdoor skills, mentorship, peer group community building, and nature awareness activities. We aim to provide an embodied way for youth to explore coming-of-age.

Your child will join a tight-knit group of middle-schoolers on a two-year journey into adolescence.

Along the way, they will gain insights about life, relationships, and Jewish identity, while developing a deep connection with the local ecology.

Parents are included in the experience, with scheduled check-ins and special programming to support the whole family through this rich, dynamic, transitional time.

Every School Year Includes:

In fall, winter, and spring we gather for several days in beautiful wild locations to celebrate Shabbat, camp out under the stars, connect to nature, learn wilderness and crafting skills, and build stronger relationships. Parents join us for the fall weekend and for the final day of our spring trip to celebrate each season’s completion.

Throughout the season B’naiture meets in the East Bay Hills for a full day (10:30 am – 4:30 pm) of Jewish nature immersion on 6 Sundays. Each day includes deep nature connection, wilderness skill building, crafting, and embodied learning that draws from the rhythms of the Hebrew calendar and the stories and wisdom of the Torah while gradually preparing youth for the final solo rite of passage.

Throughout the season on Wednesdays*, B’naiture cohorts gather in parks and backyards in the East Bay after school (5:00pm-8:00pm) to practice fire skills, enjoy dinner around a fire, share in council on topics relevant to growing into their teen years, and explore seasonal Jewish teachings and crafts based on the Hebrew month, holidays, and Torah stories.

*1st year cohort meets 6 Wednesdays, 2nd year cohort meets 7 Wednesdays.

B’naiture is centered on our culminating challenge: a one-night fire tending solo that marks the entrance into adolescence. In their second year, the youth spend time preparing for their solo fires, by building fire skills and readying themselves emotionally and spiritually for what lies ahead. On our final weekend together, elders, mentors and alumni send them off to tend a sacred fire through the night. The whole community welcomes them back in the morning as they return to a day of rest culminating in a celebratory ceremony with their families.

Cultivating family community and involving parents in the experience is essential to B’naiture. The parent/guardian track begins on the fall camping trip, which parents are highly encouraged to attend, and continues throughout the season with three Wednesday evening programs (runs concurrently with youth program). The parent track teaches basic concepts in earth-based Judaism, explores how to best support adolescents during this critical rite-of-passage time, and fosters community amongst B’naiture families.

For more information, read Bringing Parents Along – A key to Life Centered Education

You can also learn more by listening to this audio recording: A Transformative, Nature-Based Rite-of-Passage Journey for Youth (Grades 6-8) and Their Families

2023-24 Schedule, Locations, and Times

LOCATIONS

B’naiture Sundays and Wednesdays are held in the East Bay hills and shoreline parks, as well as community families’ backyards. You will be updated in advance of each session. Exact locations shared after registering.

2023-24 MEETING DATES & TIMES

B’naiture meeting times are listed below. Exact dates appear in the list that follows.

  • Sundays, 10:30 am – 4:30 pm unless otherwise noted
  • Wednesdays, 5:00–8:00 pm
  • Camping trips start at 3 pm on Thursdays or Fridays. Ending times vary.
  • In case of a need to cancel due to weather, we have 3 make-up dates. Please hold these in your calendar, as well.

October 2023

  • Sunday, October 15 (10:30 am – 2:30 pm)
  • Friday, October 27 – Sunday, October 29 (Fall Camping Trip)

November 2023

  • Wednesday, November 15 (includes Parent Program)

December 2023

  • Sunday, December 3
  • Wednesday, December 13

January 2024

  • Sunday, January 7
  • Wednesday, January 24

February 2024

  • Friday, February 2 – Sunday, Feb 4 (Winter Camping Trip)
  • Wednesday, February 14 
  • (Make-up day) Sunday, February 25

March 2024

  • Sunday, March 3
  • Wednesday, March 13 (includes Parent Program)
  • Sunday, March 24

April 2024

  • Wednesday, April 17 (includes Parent Program)
  • (Make-up day) Sunday, April 21

May 2024

  • (Make-up day) Wednesday, May 1 
  • Sunday, May 5
  • Thursday, May 9 – Sunday, May 12 (Spring Camping Trip)
  • Wednesday, May 22 (2nd Year Cohort Only)

Application Information

Application Process

All youth and their parents must complete an application and join us for an interview to be accepted into B’naiture. We accept applications on a rolling basis. We encourage you to apply as soon as you know you want to join, as we have limited spots available.

  • To apply, click the Apply Here button (When applications open).
  • Complete the application, including a section that youth are requested to fill out by themselves.
  • After we receive your applications, we invite B’naiture applicants for a group interview with B’naiture staff. We schedule interviews from April through September. 
  • Once this process is complete, we will notify you about acceptance and registration.
  •  Once the program is full, additional applicants will be added to the waiting list.

Info Session

Learn more about B’naiture in-person!

Info sessions are a great way to get a taste of our programs, have your questions answered, and meet our Youth Programs staff.

What you can expect:

  • Youth get a taste of the B’naiture experience with our stellar mentor team
  • Youth meet and connect with other potential participants
  • Parents and mentors gather for introductions and to share a seasonal Jewish story
  • Parents learn program details and have Q&A time with youth programs staff

We theme our info sessions (just like we plan our programs) around the rhythms of the Hebrew calendar, so everyone will walk away with a sense of how we, at Wilderness Torah, celebrate and engage the Jewish cycles.

Next B’naiture Info Session dates will be announced this summer.

Awards & Press

B’naiture is a Multi Award-Winning Youth Program

2019 Winner of Helen Diller Family Award for Excellence in Jewish Education

Daniel Schindelman Schoen, former Wilderness Torah Youth Program Director, earned this prestigious award for his innovative mentorship work in B’naiture and the other Wilderness Torah youth programs.

2017 Winner of Prestigious Prize for Educators

Aya Baron, former Youth Program Director and B’naiture Lead Mentor, was honored  with the Natalia Twersky Award for her creative use of Jewish women’s stories in her teaching at B’naiture.

“Finalist Aya Baron is passionate about cultivating a regenerative Jewish culture, developing rites of passage experiences for youth, and working with adolescent girls. Her lesson plan [is designed] … to help young girls find their footing in the face of popular culture in ways that ignite their confidence, creativity, and self-expression.” Jewish Women’s Archive

B’naiture Wins National Prize

B’naiture was one of six national winners of the Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom, recognizing programs that help people apply Jewish wisdom to live better lives and shape a better world.

“Wilderness Torah’s B’naiture program connects participants to deep Jewish wisdom to help them navigate the real issues facing them in adolescence. Their two-year journey is an excellent beginning to, rather than culmination of, their Jewish education in a way that positions Judaism as a source of guidance and support throughout their lives.” Aaron Dorfman, President of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah

Follow the links below for more details on what to expect in B’naiture!