B’naiture Frequently Asked Questions

A: B’naiture is an experiential, mentorship program that focuses on embodied, nature-based learning — we weave Jewish teachings, story, and song with wilderness skills, nature awareness, challenges, and community building experiences. There are no walls, no desks, and usually no paper. The forest is our classroom.

Wilderness Torah youth programs do not replace synagogue Hebrew school education, where students formally learn skills such as Hebrew, Torah, and prayer. Rather, Wilderness Torah’s programs engage youth in the natural world through Jewish stories, teachings, songs, and prayers to help youth learn about themselves, become more self-reliant, and deepen their relationship to nature and Jewish tradition.

For many families, our programs are their stand-alone source of Jewish education, while roughly ⅓ additionally enroll their children at Hebrew schools or Jewish day schools.

Young people who come with very little background in Jewish learning often reflect feeling a newfound sense of Jewish identity through learning prayers, songs, and understanding the Hebrew calendar. Children with more Jewish education background often reflect on the balance our programs provide through embodied experience to the intellectually focused school environment and discover an enlivened relationship to their faith.

A: B’naiture either both supplements traditional B’nai Mitzvah education and serves families who do not choose to undertake traditional B’nai Mitzvah training, but does not prepare participants for a traditional Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony. We celebrate the coming-of-age process, and explore it within a Jewish context. About half of our participants prepare for a traditional ceremony in addition, while for half, this is their stand alone Jewish coming of age experience. Some families work with our staff to decide what fits for them and how to bridge their child’s experience in B’naiture with family and community life, be that through their bar or bat mitzvah, a communal celebration of their B’naiture experience, or other ventures.
A: B’naiture is a two-year journey. In the first year youth develop basic skills and build relationships with their peers and mentors. The second year cohort builds upon the skills from the first year, allowing them to take on greater challenge, adventure, independence, and advanced skills. Second year youth are guided into deeper introspection regarding their coming-of-age from child to teenager, take on more responsibility within the program, and engage in higher level skills and activities including fire and nature-based Judaica crafting, among others.

As a culmination of the two-years of skill building and experience, each second year mentee graduates through a final overnight solo (or other appropriate challenge) designed to reveal their inner strength, celebrate their unique gifts, and mark their passage into their teenage years.

A: The transition from childhood to teenager is a tender time, which boys and girls often experience very differently. A healthy amount of separation at this age teaches youth about self-respect and personal responsibility. This also allows each youth to truly honor and understand her/his relationship to becoming a young man or woman. Because human sexuality begins to awaken at this life transition, separation also provides a safe space to share and explore many real issues youth face at this time.

Our experience confirms current psychological research that shows that boys and girls at this age generally experience and process things in different ways. In order to create the safety needed to be true to oneself, separating into boys and girls groups is developmentally appropriate at this age. We are aware that boys and girls appreciate the full spectrum of experience, so both cohorts learn and experience a very similar set of skills, activities, and Jewish learning.

A: We recognize and appreciate that some children do not identify with traditional gender and sexual identification. Thus, we openly include participants across the gender identity and sexual preference spectrum. Our curriculum aims to support the children however they identify and we are prepared to accommodate a wide range of participant needs. We are very open to exploring how to best support your child and family.
A: Wilderness Torah supports pluralistic Jewish community experiences that aim to be inclusive of all participants, welcoming all levels of familiarity and identification with Jewish tradition. Framed by the rhythms of the Jewish calendar, our youth programs create a Jewish cultural experience steeped in Jewish stories, songs, and crafts.

We welcome participants of all backgrounds — Jewish and multi-faith — and celebrate diversity of Jewish knowledge, practice, belief, and expression. We focus on the earth-based aspects of Jewish tradition and seek to model and create Jewish community that is inclusive and supportive of all participants in cultivating meaningful, personal relationships with Judaism.

Wilderness Torah creates a pluralistic community platform where individuals of the range of religious observance can participate. We support the observance of Jewish law, such as Shabbat and kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), and provide our diverse community with many options for religious observance. We invite all families to get curious about differences they perceive among Jewish practices within the B’naiture community. Go ahead, ask! Building pluralistic community poses challenges that can become profound learning opportunities.

A: Shabbat (sabbath), the seventh and final day of the week, is a day of rest, and of reveling in the innate perfection of Creation, the world around us, and our lives as is. Shabbat is one of the most central traditions of Judaism. Honoring this day becomes a craft in itself, and some of the most unexpected, deeply connective magic has arisen in our programs over the years from honoring and uplifting its unique practices. We create an inclusive, welcoming, and rejuvenating environment while observing traditional practices such as refraining from technology use, lighting and tending fire, and from crafting.

In addition to being delicious, kid friendly, and organic whenever possible, food served on our camping trips observes traditional the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut (keeping kosher).