Wilderness Torah

With a focus on Judaism's land-based roots, Wilderness Torah stewards a vibrant, diverse community that revitalizes Judaism for modern Jews of all ages.

Location: Berkeley , CA - California
Year founded: 2007

Description

Wilderness Torah reconnects Jewish traditions to the land, creating a groundbreaking entry point into post-denominational Jewish community for thousands of participants of all backgrounds. A leader in the emergent movement for authentic, relevant Judaism, Wilderness Torah has engaged over 12,000 participants from across the United States and beyond– the majority of whom are under 40 – since 2007 in a “living Judaism” outside of institutional walls.

While many young American Jews describe themselves as having no religion, an emerging network of Jewish Outdoor, Food, and Environmental Education (JOFEE) programs bucks this trend. Thousands of young adults are reconnecting to Judaism through JOFEE programs. In fact, of the 80% of Wilderness Torah participants were disengaged from Judaism at some point in their lives, Wilderness Torah was the doorway back in for half of them, and many now consider themselves Jewish leaders.

Since the first Sukkot on the Farm festival in 2007, Wilderness Torah has grown exponentially, now directly serving nearly 2,500 youth, young adult and adult participants each year from all over the country. Our powerful community-building model successfully fosters inclusive and inspiring post-denominational Jewish community; reconnects the disengaged to Judaism; and provides potent Jewish education for youth. Due to Wilderness Torah’s success, we increasingly attract requests from other Jewish communities across the U.S. and beyond to study and replicate our model.

• Our multi-generational holiday retreats, such as Passover in the Desert, gather participants from the spectrum of Jewish life to celebrate traditional pilgrimage festivals in their original land-based context.

• More than 150 20- and 30-somethings have gone through our leadership program, a three-month program empowering these young leaders to co-lead our retreat. Participants learn concrete skills to become Jewish leaders, including small and large group facilitation; effective communication and conflict resolution; Jewish text studies on leadership, nature and holidays; Jewish ritual facilitation; and pluralism/inclusivity; and are empowered to co-create Jewish village-building experiences during our festivals.

• Our nature-based youth programs for grades K-8 and teen program offer an innovative, experiential, mentorship-based approach to Jewish education.

Our programs consistently reach unprecedented numbers; earned revenue has grown to 40% of income; and demand for expansion and training outstrips our capacity. Most importantly, we deeply impact participants, who consistently report transformative Jewish connection and strengthened Jewish identity through our programs.

K’far Wilderness Torah (Wilderness Torah Village)

About

In 2016 and 2017, we extensively surveyed our participants on their needs and desires for Jewish community, including a survey, focus group, and 3-day community visioning retreat. The needs are clear: Wilderness Torah participants seek year-­round community, with more opportunities to gather, worship, learn, celebrate together, and step into their leadership potential. Young adults in particular are seeking more Jewish ritual, experience, and learning with their peers—and young families seek inclusive ways to raise their children Jewishly within innovative spaces—new modes of Jewish community that are relevant to their lives.

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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

K’far Wilderness Torah is an answer to the call for a slate of year-round programming that celebrates Jewish earth-based tradition and is rooted in community members’ everyday lives, which empowers participants to become co-creators of their Jewish experience and lay leaders among their peers.

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Program Description

K’far Wilderness Torah supports the emerging Wilderness Torah Bay Area community through an innovative regional community model, offering regular Shabbat and holiday programming, Jewish learning, leadership development, new parent and tot-focused programming, and community building activities that empower participants with the tools to create Jewish community and ritual with their own families, friends, and sub-communities. K’Far Wilderness Torah serves a simultaneous deepening of how we serve the Bay Area while developing a new, regional community-engagement model to be scaled beyond our region and utilized by communities across the Jewish world.

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Demonstrated Need

Wilderness Torah, celebrating ten years of successful programming with annual double-digit growth, has hundreds of repeat participants who consistently ask for more community opportunities as well as deeper learning and training to take community-building into their own hands. In a recent series of focus groups, we learned that hundreds of young adults seek year-round community, with more opportunities to gather, worship, learn, celebrate together, and gain skills to step into their leadership power. From young adults seeking more Jewish ritual and foundational learning; to parents of kids grades K-8 in our youth programs seeking more access points for their families; to elders who are excited by our multi-generational approach and seek more accessible year-round programming, we know that K'far Wilderness Torah will meet the needs of Bay Area Jews seeking new, more relevant modes of Jewish community. We envision developing K'far Wilderness Torah and eventually training other communities in this regional model.

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Program Accomplishments

K’Far Wilderness Torah will launch in spring 2018.

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How do you measure the success of your program?

We expect to hit the below benchmarks, with the following impact:

- Over 1,800 participants will deepen year-round participation in Jewish life, including Shabbat, Holidays, Jewish learning, and leadership trainings. We will track all participants in our Salesforce database and track results via surveys.

- More than 90% of program participants will state that their Wilderness Torah experience sustained or deepened their commitment to Jewish life.

- More than 90% of participants will feel more connected to Judaism after our programs.

- Over 100 young adults will deepen basic Jewish literacy, including fundamentals of the Hebrew calendar, Torah stories, Jewish song and prayer, and major Jewish holidays. We will offer a series of classes and survey all participants afterwards.

- Over 50 young adults will be trained and empowered to host at least one community event. We will train K’Far participants with models for creating vibrant, Jewish experience in homes and sub-communities, and will track events hosted and participant numbers by surveys.

- Over 100 parents of kids K-12 will engage in parent-oriented community programs. We will host special programs for parents and their children, tracking all participants numbers through Salesforce.

Back to Top

K’far Wilderness Torah (Wilderness Torah Village)

About

In 2016 and 2017, we extensively surveyed our participants on their needs and desires for Jewish community, including a survey, focus group, and 3-day community visioning retreat. The needs are clear: Wilderness Torah participants seek year-­round community, with more opportunities to gather, worship, learn, celebrate together, and step into their leadership potential. Young adults in particular are seeking more Jewish ritual, experience, and learning with their peers—and young families seek inclusive ways to raise their children Jewishly within innovative spaces—new modes of Jewish community that are relevant to their lives.

Back to Top

What is the mission and purpose of this program?

K’far Wilderness Torah is an answer to the call for a slate of year-round programming that celebrates Jewish earth-based tradition and is rooted in community members’ everyday lives, which empowers participants to become co-creators of their Jewish experience and lay leaders among their peers.

Back to Top

Program Description

K’far Wilderness Torah supports the emerging Wilderness Torah Bay Area community through an innovative regional community model, offering regular Shabbat and holiday programming, Jewish learning, leadership development, new parent and tot-focused programming, and community building activities that empower participants with the tools to create Jewish community and ritual with their own families, friends, and sub-communities. K’Far Wilderness Torah serves a simultaneous deepening of how we serve the Bay Area while developing a new, regional community-engagement model to be scaled beyond our region and utilized by communities across the Jewish world.

Back to Top

Demonstrated Need

Wilderness Torah, celebrating ten years of successful programming with annual double-digit growth, has hundreds of repeat participants who consistently ask for more community opportunities as well as deeper learning and training to take community-building into their own hands. In a recent series of focus groups, we learned that hundreds of young adults seek year-round community, with more opportunities to gather, worship, learn, celebrate together, and gain skills to step into their leadership power. From young adults seeking more Jewish ritual and foundational learning; to parents of kids grades K-12 in our youth programs seeking more access points for their families; to elders who are excited by our multi-generational approach and seek more accessible year-round programming, we know that K'far Wilderness Torah will meet the needs of Bay Area Jews seeking new, more relevant modes of Jewish community. We envision developing K'far Wilderness Torah and eventually training other communities in this regional model.

Back to Top

Program Accomplishments

K’Far Wilderness Torah will launch in spring 2018.

Back to Top

How do you measure the success of your program?

We expect to hit the below benchmarks, with the following impact:


- Over 1,800 participants will deepen year-round participation in Jewish life, including Shabbat, Holidays, Jewish learning, and leadership trainings. We will track all participants in our Salesforce database and track results via surveys.

- More than 90% of program participants will state that their Wilderness Torah experience sustained or deepened their commitment to Jewish life.

- More than 90% of participants will feel more connected to Judaism after our programs.

- Over 100 young adults will deepen basic Jewish literacy, including fundamentals of the Hebrew calendar, Torah stories, Jewish song and prayer, and major Jewish holidays. We will offer a series of classes and survey all participants afterwards.

- Over 50 young adults will be trained and empowered to host at least one community event. We will train K’Far participants with models for creating vibrant, Jewish experience in homes and sub-communities, and will track events hosted and participant numbers by surveys.

- Over 100 parents of kids K-12 will engage in parent-oriented community programs. We will host special programs for parents and their children, tracking all participants numbers through Salesforce.

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