“The wilderness is not just a desert through which we wandered for forty years. It is a way of being. A place that demands being honest with yourself without regard to the cost in personal anxiety. A place that demands being present with all of yourself. In the wilderness your possessions cannot surround you. Your preconceptions cannot protect you… You see the world as if for the first time” – Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, Honey from the Rock
In Hebrew, BaMidbar means “in the wilderness,” or “in the desert.” There is a Jewish text (Zohar Va’era, 2:25b) that tells us when we were in Egypt, we lost the ability to express our own stories. During that time, we were literally slaves to another person’s narrative. When we left Egypt, we spent forty years in the midbar or wilderness. It was there that we began our national story telling and created our own identity. The midbar is a wilderness, but there is also a second meaning — to speak — דבר. We went into the midbar to find our own voice and to write a new narrative as a people.
At BaMidbar, we give our students a chance to write their own narratives – to redefine how they view themselves, what they think they’re capable of, and their ability to achieve that vision.
In the wilderness, our students will have a fresh start. They will be in a new and unfamiliar environment, free of the constant cultural stimuli experienced in today’s world. The wilderness is humbling. It invites vulnerability and decreases distractions. Within these powerful surroundings, our students build identity, develop skills, find strength in their community, and improve their family dynamics. Every aspect of our program is intentionally crafted to facilitate growth in students and their families.
BaMidbar’s Theory of Change
BaMidbar’s program leads to changes in UNDERSTANDING:
- Increased self-knowledge
- Understanding of personal emotional response
- Recognizes personal strengths
- Stronger sense of identity and values
- Sees change as learning opportunity
- Connects Jewish metaphor and storytelling to life
- Fundamental skill development, including: communication, conflict management, addiction awareness, goal setting
- Technical skill development, including: primitive living skills, activity-based concepts like rock climbing and mountain biking
- Greater understanding of Jewish ritual and practice
- Concepts of self-care
- Understands recovery concepts such as 12 Step program in a Jewish framework
- Realization of impact of actions on others
- Sees oneself as valued member of team
- Respect, empathy, and caring toward others
- Sense of belonging and connection to Jewish community
- Understanding of Tikkun Olam, the Jewish concept of civic engagement
- Parent and student understand need for guidance, structure, and independence
- Parents gain increased understanding of fundamental skills, including communication, conflict management, and strengths-based approaches to parenting
- Student relates group experience to family relationship
- Spiritual leaders better understand how to support families struggling with addiction or mental health challenges
Changes in understanding lead to changes in ATTITUDES:
- Increased self-esteem
- Insight into behaviors
- Spiritual connectedness
- Sees self in larger tapestry of Jewish people, history, and values
- Increased appreciation for natural world
- Feels a sense of purpose and a belief in a positive future
- Goal oriented
- Increased self-efficacy, sense of accomplishment
- Appreciation for outdoor activities
- Connects Jewish values to process of recovery
- Desires independence and autonomy
- Commitment to healthy decisions
- Open to conflicting values and new ideas
- Desire to meaningfully contribute to team
- Sense of membership, belonging, safety, and structure in community
- Realization that personal actions impact others, and a desire for that impact to be positive
- Caring family relationships demonstrated through compassion, understanding, respect, interest, safety, and trust
- Student feels that he or she has meaningful participation and voice in decision making
- Family feels supported by home spiritual community
Changes in attitudes lead to changes in BEHAVIOR:
- Increased intrinsic motivation
- Healthier emotional expression
- Willingness to ask for help
- Integrates and applies learning with less fear of change
- Makes time for meditation, prayer, and/or self-reflection
- Identifies as a Jew
- Practices self-care
- Persistence in task completion and resiliency in face of challenge
- Uses fundamental skills to guide healthy decision-making
- Increased executive functioning
- Uses Jewish practice as positive coping mechanism
- Authentically engages in community
- Maintains healthy peer and adult relationships and has strong peer and community support structures
- Seeks Jewish community in aftercare
- Engages in community service and civic engagement
- Parent and student communicate openly about challenges and successes
- Parenting exemplifies strengths-based approach, with appropriate guidance, structure, challenge, and independence
- Parent and student utilize transition plan to support positive reintegration into aftercare environment
Development of program activities is guided by research and best practices in the outdoor behavioral healthcare field.
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