Real-world Retreat Centers, Jewish Spiritual Gatherings, and Outdoor Adventures
A genuine Retreat experience takes place in the real, not virtual world. JOFFEE (Jewish Outdoor Food, Farming, and Environmental Education) is growing by leaps and bounds! If you are ready to give it a try, here are some places and organizations that provide in-person retreats offering a variety of styles and experiences. (Listed by region and then alphabetically)
East Coast USA
Am Kolel Jewish sponsored, ecumenical sanctuary retreat center in Maryland.
The Awakened Heart is an organization devoted to Jewish contemplative practice and meditation, including retreats.
Burning Bush Adventures offers “close encounters with God and Judaism through quality wilderness experiences” including canoe trips, dogsled trips, cross-country skiing and camping, combined with Jewish learning and observance.
Eden Village Camp is located north of New York City and provides a Jewish summer camp with a focus on farming, food and wilderness, with seasonal holiday programs and a weekend family camp. The camp has its own working organic farm.
Isabella Freedman Retreat Center is a major Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut, sponsored by Hazon (see below), offering many reatreats for all ages, and programs such as the Adamah Fellowship, a Jewish farming and environmental fellowship.
Jewish Farm School of Philadelphia is a place to learn about the environment, homesteading skills, and to give back to the community through volunteer work in urban gardens.
Organic Torah is a non-profit organization that seeks to “integrate Jewish wisdom into the world-wide struggle for a sustainable, healthy and just world.” The website features resources, online courses, and offers retreats at various locations.
Pearlstone Center has 160 acres of woods and farmland just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, including the organic Kayam Farm and environmental education program. They offer a variety of programs for all ages as well as facilities for group retreats.
Adventure Rabbi offers a new type of Jewish congregation-based on outdoor retreats in the Boulder, Colorado Area and in South Lake Tahoe, California. Programs include hiking, skiing, learning, B’nai Mitzvah programs and holiday events.
ALEPH Kallah takes place every other year at different locations. In July, 2016 it was held in Ft. Collins Colorado, bringing together hundreds of people to experience Jewish learning, spirituality, the arts, movement, and programs for all ages in a beautiful setting.
West Coast USA
Havurah Shir Hadash hosts a spiritual Shabbaton (Shabbat weekend) every spring in beautiful Ashland, Oregon. I have often been among the many leaders and teachers participating.
Jewish Outdoor Leadership Training (JOLT) is a five day course for nature staff, held each spring at Camp Tawonga, near Yosemite National Park in California.
Shalom Institute, on 220 acres in beautiful Malibu, California, offers a retreat facility as well as an amazingly wide range of programs including summer camp, adult and family retreats, and Shemesh Organic Farm.
Torah Trek offers outdoor adventures and retreats in places like Wyoming and California.
Urban Adamah is a center for organic farming, social activism and Jewish education in Berkeley, California.
Wilderness Torah, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, offers numerous creative programs to find spirituality in the heart of nature, as well as an innovative coming of age program in the outdoors: B’naiture.
ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, the organization of the Jewish Renewal movement,offeres a biannual Kallah gathering, a festival of Jewish spiritual teaching an celebration held on various scenic college campuses. Ruach Ha’Aretz is ALEPH’s “mobile retreat center,” offering in-depth courses in Jewish spirituality and multi-generational summer retreats in beautiful natural settings.
Avanim Adventures designs wilderness experiences such as rafting and camping for the Orthodox Jewish adventurer. Trips and activities are fully observant of Shabbat and kashrut (dietary laws). Programs are available for adults, teens, and families.
Hazon, the premier Jewish environmental umbrella organization offers everything from bike tours, to dowloadable educationall materials, to natural food conferences. They also sponsor the Shmita project to create awareness and creative observance of the Biblical Sabbatical year of rest for the land.
Institute for Jewish Spirituality sponsors many programs and retreats focused on meditation and study of Jewish spiritual texts, including in conjunction with Israel’s Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, a pluralistic center for traditional Jewish learning.
Outdoor Jewish Adventures, founded by Josh Lake, can lead programs, train staff, or even provide a “Jewish Nature Kit” for organizations doing Jewish outdoor programming.
Shefa Gold and C-Deep Rabbi Shefa Gold, pioneer of Jewish sacred chant as an ecstatic and joyful spiritual practice, leads many workshops and spiritual retreats, from Santa Fe to the Amazon river.
Chava and Adam Farm is a multidisciplinary center for environmental and social education. (Chava=Eve in Hebrew)
Explore Natural Israel with a variety of tours from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI).
The Homestead Jerusalem is a new educational urban farm in the heart of Jerusalem:
Please email Wellsprings to recommend your favorite Retreat Center or Jewish spiritual gathering.