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2009 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Wilderness Torah

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Nonprofit Overview

Mission: Wilderness Torah awakens and celebrates the earth-based traditions of Judaism to nourish the connections between self, community, earth, and Spirit.

Results: Over three years, we have created ten holiday pilgrimage festivals (Sukkot on the Farm Festival, Passover in the Desert, and Shavuot on the Mountain), and the day-long Tu B'Shvat in the Redwoods serving over 500 people in 2010. The demand for our programs has consistently demonstrated the deep need for our work. We have sold out every Wilderness Torah event since our first Sukkot in 2007, and attendance increases by more than 30% with each event. We started the first Jewish Vision Quest in 2008, and continued with Wilderness Walks and a second vision quest in 2009. IN 2010 we launched Gan Torah Children's Nature Program. In 2011, we will launch our B'nai Mitzvah Nature Mentoring Program and Hebrew Homesteading (classes like challah-baking and picking).

Target demographics: All ages! We are building multi-generational community at our festivals.

Geographic areas served: California and beyond

Programs: Passover in the Desert, Sukkot on the Farm, Tu B'Shvat in the Redwoods, community programs including Kabbalat Shabbat services with Urban Adamah, and programs for youth ages 5 through 18.

Community Stories

37 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

8

Client Served

Rating: 5

Bringing environmental awareness and stewardship together with the rich history of Jewish culture in a non denominational and inclusive manner is what this organization is about. I have been moved, impressed and inspired by the vision and dedication that this organization is bringing to our 21st century evolving culture.

9

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Though I have not attended a Wilderness Torah event, the transformation and illumination i have seen in those who have is enough to convince me of its great service to the Jewish community.

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

I've been to only one Wilderness Torah event, but it left me and my family feeling more connected to community and the environment. Everything that was planned for the event -- from the food to the tribes -- was done with loving intention to create a stronger, more vibrant, more diverse and more connected kinship among the participants.

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah Helped me deepen my roots in the bay area Jewish community. My first interaction with Wilderness Torah was Pesach in the desert. I didn't even like the desert and now I have a new appreciation for it. Most importantly, I made life time friends in the Jewish community. The workshops were informative and spiritual.

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah is the future of Judaism. The people who are involved are some of the most kind spirited people I have ever met. The underlying philosophy that the potential for spiritual connection and transformation happens in a sacred space that is rooted deeply in proven ancient traditions yet fluid and open to shifting when Spirit calls for it on the spur of the moment, is a great strength unique to Wilderness Torah. Although my husband an I do not have children yet we admired the way in which the Wilderness Torah leaders taught and cared for the young children and are hoping that by the time we have children they will have a full time hebrew school. My husband and I drove 7 hours to spend Succot with Wilderness Torah and are now planning to spend all our holidays with them no matter how far we have to drive. There is nothing else like this out there and it needs to thrive. Additionally, our lifestyle has changed because of what we learned at succot on the farm. We now only use reusable dishes when we camp. Additionally we reduced our consumption of meat to almost nothing and we eat more grains and organic fruits and vegetables.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 4

Wilderness Torah is a dynamic community that has a core structure yet grows and changes because it constantly incorporates and makes room for what participants bring to gatherings. It is trully a creative, grassroots, Jewish organization. The potential it holds for bringing people to experience Torah in an embodied, experiential, personal way is something to be excited about and involved in!

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah provided me, my wife, and my 4yr old daughter with a memorable time celebrating Succot on an organic farm on the California coast, making friends and contributing to a beautiful collective experience.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have attended two of Wilderness Torah's events. They have been transformative and have brought me closer to my culture, my community, and myself. They are an organization on the leading edge of making the connection between the role of religion, culture, and sustainability.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I went on the Pesach in the Desert experience in 2008, and it was an amazing experience. The trip was fantastic--it was well organized, we had plenty of wonderful food, and the real connections I've made with the people and the land have stayed with me and continued to improve my life. CHL partners with Wilderness Torah when possible, and in that capacity I continue to see Wilderness Torah growing by leaps and bounds in their service to the community.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This is a ground-breaking organization doing the crucial work of linking earth and spirituality, bringing Jews back to our deepest roots in the Torah and the land. I am so thankful for the transformations in my personal practice and my relationship to Judaism that have arisen because of the programs of Wilderness Torah. I especially appreciate the phenomenal leadership of this organization -- balanced, wise, grounded, courageous. This work is truly unprecedented!

7

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

When I first heard about Wilderness Torah, I couldn't believe it - an organization bringing Jews together to study, pray and play in the wilderness??! It was like a dream come true, two of my worlds and passions coming together in a way they hadn't since my ecstatic days at Jewish overnight camp in the Santa Cruz mountains. And participating in the events and coming to know the people involved has surpassed even my initial excitement. The programming is rich, the opportunities for learning are mind and heart opening, the people leading and participating are stellar and open to authentic connection, the music and food are great, and the practice of Jewish ritual in these beautiful places as was done by our ancestors is just what my soul needs. I am thrilled about this organization and look forward to continuing to play and pray with them.

4

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As Rabbi of Chochmat HaLev, the spiritual community the helped birth Wilderness Torah, I am happy to provide a reference. I have attended three of their events - at Sukkot, Pesah and TuB'Shvat. each time, I have further deepened my connection between Judaism and Imma Adama, our Mother Earth. Their leadership is both inspired and grounded. I am delighted Wilderness Torah is planning to continue and expand their earth- based Judaism programming. Rabbi SaraLeya Schley, Berkeley, CA

7

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have been hearing and reading about the incredible growth of Wilderness Torah since its inception. I am thoroughly impressed with the strength of the community it has built and the energy, dedication and commitment of its volunteers, staff and leaders. I am excited to participate in future family-oriented events (i.e. Sukkot on the Farm) so my entire family can all experience the warm, welcoming and educational environment WT has created.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

An incredibly simple concept: taking Jewish holidays and rituals, and putting them outside in their original context. It's ancient-retro in trying to engage the original style and spirit of the rituals. And it's 21st century ultra-modern in its blending of environmental sustainability, back-to-the-land wilderness=beauty, and neo-Kabbalistic in the connection to "Something great than ourselves" through connecting with your own inner truth. It's the Judaism I didn't even know I was always looking for.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah offers me a chance to bear witness to Oneness, in all its many forms, but especially as it can be seen and felt beyond the walls of institutional Judaism. The rituals I have experienced with Wilderness Torah have been accessible, grounding and full of joy. I felt blessed to be a part of the holy community woven together at Sukkot on the Farm 2009.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah is something I have been seeking for awhile: a way to connect to self, community, and nature in the context of Jewish cycles. I have learned so much so far!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah has provided me with the most essential thing I can hope for: a sense of belonging, exactly as I am, and an inspiration to care for the earth because I feel the caring that comes from belonging. I also leave these events with the a sense that there are other people playing on this team and a network to facilitate change. The events are rich in education and integrity, the people are loving, the purpose is completely uplifting and I come from there feeling like a better person and wanting to take action accordingly. It has brought me back to Judaism more so than any Havurah I have come across.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This was a new kind of Jewish experience for me outdoors, and no synangogue affiliation. The experience was tremendous, it was really uplifting and really different from other Jewish experiences. I actually think I find more spirituality when in nature so perhaps this is a natural for me. What impressed me about WT was their absolute professionalism- they had learning sessions all night (far longer than I could keep awake for) that were varied and informative, the arrangements were superb by that I mean transit & food , the location perfect. This WT program brought what is clearly in demand as it was full, and I think it brought a cross section together that was unique.

Client Served

Rating: 4

I love Wilderness Torah as it is bringing alive the often lost connection to nature in our modern world. The concepts and depth of what is being offered feeds the Jewish soul like nothing I have found in Judaism. Zelig's energy is great and teachings are grounded, accessable and experiential causing one to get more into their body, pay attention and into healthy relationship with God's country (nature) and being in authentic community.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah is a cutting edge organization that has taken the lead in revitalizing Judaism with the Earth Based origin of this ancient tradition. I have participated in several of their gatherings including Pesach in the Desert and Shavuout on the Mountain. All events were wonderful and profoundly meaningful for those who attended. Community bonds are strengthened and tradition is given deeper meaning and exploration. I know that this organization has really got their finger on the pulse of such and important piece of the need to reconnect our tradition with the wisdom at it's roots. I look forward to many more gatherings and celebrations with this amazing group!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah was my first experience of Judaism outside of a synagogue context, experiencing pilgrimmage festivals as they were meant to be: outside in nature, whether in the desert for Pesach, in the forest for Tu B'Shvat, or on a farm eating from the harvest for Sukkot. It kindled a greater vitality in Jewish observance for me and an appreciation for the Jewish holidays, their connection to the seasons, and the experience of our ancestors.

zevsky

Client Served

Rating: 5

I went to the Dixon organic farm sukkot gathering that was amazing! The people that show up are very helpful, sweet, into Judaism, and open minded to discuss many topics with you & your companion if you so wish to bring one. I have recommended a few close friends to go & they also had a wonderful time exploring their spirituality...I can't imagine anyone not having a great time!!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah has been a gateway into the Jewish community and a tunnel into the depths of earth-based traditions throughout the year. I've enjoyed the warmhearted openness of a familial community, always feeling included and welcomed. The programs are deeply insightful and educational, ever expanding my knowledge and experience of Judaism.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah's blend of experience, education, community and ritual opens doors for people seeking a deeper connection to land, time, inward reflection and outward connection. This year's Sukkot on the Farm Festival was held on a farm in a gorgeous valley on the coast - with amazing mostly local fresh foods prepared by every member of the community under the guidance of the Amazing Avishai - with visits from our farmer hosts and their neighbors - and with the full moon of Tishrei rising over the hillsides each evening.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah is for me an opportunity to be in connection with good people and the land and to share what is most important and of value in a celebratory context which is sacred. Organizations such as Wilderness Torah are a gift to humanity - I so recommend experiencing and supporting its well being. Samantha N. Terriss

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have attended several multi-day WT events. Amazing stuff. Lots of chance to be outside, doing yoga, praying, eating incredible food, and connecting with old and new friends. When I'm at these events during Jewish festivals (which I usually observe), I feel deeply that I am in the exact right place. Looking forward to more.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Wonderful organization that brings together an incredible community of Jews to celebrate the earth based roots of Judaism. I attended the sukkot on the farm with my family. We loved the programming and the ruach/spirit of the community. We will definitely be back next year.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I am very impressed with what Wilderness Torah has created in a very short time. The leadership has built retreats and other program sthat sell out, attract vibrant, interesting participants from different geographic areas and create lasting community. I have worked in the Jewish community for many years as an educator, and am impressed with the work this group is doing. Though I have not yet attended a retreat do to scheduling conflicts, many of my friend have gone and have told me great things about their experiences. I've also seen pictures and noticed that I know a lot of the participants.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I've been a better person since I joined Wilderness Torah. After attending two wonderful multiday events, I've felt so much more connected to my community, my faith, and my higher self. The concept of combining Earth-based spirituality with traditional Judaism is both so inspired and so simple that I'm amazed it has been done before, especially in the Bay Area. I'm sure this organization will grow exponentially in the near future and I look forward to being a part of it.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah takes Jewish practice and tradition from the urban envirionment back to where it all got started. On the land. The organization is teaching families and individuals about the importance of how we can live in closer connection with the earth and about the importance of caring for creation.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My experience with Wilderness Torah planted seeds in my life, which are germinating~ sending down roots, & sending up tender shoots. The impact has been undeniable. I am biking more, eating with a much deeper connection with my food, the land & the farmers, joining a CSA, and developing a clearer sense of how I can integrate ecopsychology into my psychotherapy practice. I have been longing for years to connect with the earth based wisdom within our tradition. It was a pleasure to be in the company of so many Jews who felt the same. Wilderness Torah is meeting a deep and very timely longing. The world can't wait~ we need inspired and joyful ways to reconnect with the earth. It's the only thing that will help us save our home and ourselves.

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah is rekindling the spark in people's souls by bringing them together (summer camp style), excavating meaning from Jewish rituals, and doing so by weaving it all together with nature/the land. The leaders are modeling a new, old way of living from the inside out. Started by a group of friends who haled from all over the US and met in the Bay Area, they found the things in common that make them feel connected and carved a place within Judaism to shofar this love to others. They continue to organize themselves and their ever-expanding community to unearth the most basic, delicious things about being human on this planet and being Jewish.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The most recent Wilderness Torah event I attended I can honestly say was transformational. Two weeks ago I spent four days building and living in community with a tribe of 115 people who came together to celebrate one of the biggest Jewish festivals on our calendar. We gathered with the intention of sharing and connecting with each other and the land. It was a remarkable experience for our times to be living in a community in which so much love, harmony and good faith prevailed, a far cry from the world that existed outside our sacred space. I left with a feeling of understanding what it really means to be connected to other people and the natural world. This is a very positive and powerful feeling to bring back into greater society and I truely believe it has the ability to be transformational.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

These guys are totally great. I just spent Succot with the Wilderness Torah group on the farm - great people, great programming, great food, great energy, great ruach. :-))) Nigel

Wendy Kenin

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah is filling the Jewish need for rooted spiritual connection with the Earth. While overall modern society in general has fragmented humanity's connection to the earth, most faith and cultural traditions do contain within them understanding, teachings, and practices that help restore that innate connection. Wilderness Torah is perhaps the best functioning model at the forefront of Jewish efforts to breathe continuity to our ancestral indigenous experience.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Wilderness Torah is a cutting edge Jewish organization. Notice I did not say a "jewish environmental" organization because Wilderness Torah seeks to end the distinction between the two terms. Wilderness Torah events and activities demonstrate that being Jewish is inextricably linked to "environmentalism", "locavorism", "community building", and earth-based spirituality because this tradition (so long buried in its wonderful texts) emanates from pastoral/agricultural tribes that lived close to their land after they first wandered in a "wilderness". By taking participants to a farm (for sukkot) the desert (for Pesach), or a mountaintop (shavuot), Wilderness Torah reestablishes the land (ha aretz) and the wilderness (ba midbar) as central teachers in the Jewish spiritual tradition. Wilderness Torah uncovers the ancient connections between holy days (chagim)and the land-based context in which they evolved (while completely respecting the written rabbinic tradition) and re-roots Judaism in its connection to place, community, self, and spirit. Events focus on the connection between land/place/wilderness and spirituality, including the tenuous nature of all that we are given (e.g., food and shelter). By emphasizing the central role of community in surviving and thriving spiritually, Wilderness Torah is creating a cadre of Jews who are enthusiastic about their mystical tradition, their community, and environmental sustainability.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have now attended three events with Wilderness Torah (two Sukkots, one Shavuot). I think this organization is doing a great job of appealing to those of us who are already involved in the Jewish community, and those who are not. Combining Judaism and the environment is a natural (see the success of Jewish summer camps) but it should not end when we are adults. I can't wait to see where this organization goes as it continues to grow. More communities need something like it!