The first outdoor therapy program in America just for Jews will begin its maiden journey this month, when BaMidbar (Hebrew for “In the Desert”) Wilderness Therapy will take its first trek in Colorado’s backcountry.
BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy will start its first outdoor experience for young Jews seeking therapeutic support on January 24, launching an 8 to 12 week course for an initial 12 to 20 participants between the ages of 18 and 26.
An experiential outdoor education program for young adults struggling with emotional, behavioral, or academic challenges, BaMidbar is a program of Ramah in the Rockies, a Jewish camp located on a 360-acre ranch in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, at 8,000 feet. The therapeutic program includes four-day wilderness treks, with Shabbats spent at Ramah’s base camp. At base camp, participants will also have individual, group, and family therapy.
Eliav Bock, executive director of Ramah in the Rockies, which is launching BaMidbar, said that while there are 30 highly regarded expedition-based alternative therapy programs across the country, there are no faith-based programs to meet the needs of Jewish at-risk young adults.
BaMidbar will allow young Jewish adults to “challenge themselves emotionally, intellectually and spiritually by embarking on individualized journeys of self-discovery and healing,” Bock said. “The Ramah in the Rockies ranch and surrounding public lands are a perfect environment for students to rediscover themselves, their values, their community – and a healthy, fulfilling path forward.”
Many of the existing programs have a high percentage of Jewish participants, and many even offer kosher food options – but most borrow from Native American, Eastern, or Christian philosophies and traditions said Program Director Jory Hanselman.
However, BaMidbar will become the first such Shabbat-observant program, open to participants of all backgrounds and offering Jewish community, identity, traditions and values through Jewish metaphor, storytelling and learning, she said.
“At BaMidbar, we’ll adapt existing Christian and secular approaches and imbue them with Jewish texts, values, and traditions to empower the neshama, the soul, of participants on their healing journey,” Hanselman said.
Bock and Hanselman said the program, which is partially supported by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, will also help the Jewish community address the fact that mental illness, trauma-related issues, and substance abuse are more common in the community than most admit or realize.
For participants, “BaMidbar will bring home the message that our Jewish community is there for them,” Bock said.