Pew Research (2013) indicates that 40% of men and 33% of women 18-31 currently live at their parent’s home. Many fall into a category often referred to as “Failure to Launch.” Additionally, 16.3% of 18-25 year olds reported substance dependence or abuse of illicit drugs or alcohol in the past year, compared to 7.1% in the 26+ population, and 5% in the 12-17 year old population (SAMHSA, 2014).
To our knowledge, there are no programs in the United States that combine Jewish values, experiential outdoor education, and substance abuse treatment.
Mental illness, trauma-related issues, and addiction are as common in the American Jewish community as in the rest of society, yet the response has been to ignore, deny, and exclude these individuals who need our help. This must change! As a Jewish community we have an obligation to create a place where emerging adults can embark on pathways to independent, healthy, adulthood, and build personal resiliency and coping skills, while also meeting each individual’s religious and spiritual needs.
There are successful wilderness therapy programs in the United States, but there are no faith-based programs to meet the needs of Jewish at-risk young adults. At BaMidbar, we will adapt existing, effective Christian and secular approaches and imbue them with Jewish texts, values, and traditions to empower the neshama of individuals in their healing process. Our program will be kosher and Shabbat-observant, allowing young adults to access treatment in a setting that does not just accommodate, but fully meets their religious needs.
The mission of Ramah in the Rockies is to nurture the character development of Jewish youth by providing them the opportunity to challenge themselves physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Ramah in the Rockies achieves this by providing programming guided by four core values:
Combining 60+ years of Ramah camp experience with outdoor adventure, Ramah in the Rockies is ready to open its doors to a new population, and to work to address an important challenge that our community needs to be talking about now. Ramah in the Rockies knows that it’s not just camp’s chalutzim who we serve through our mission. It is the cohort of young adult staff as well. Addiction and mental wellness are pressing issues in the Jewish community. By adapting programming to serve emerging adults struggling with transitions to adulthood, Ramah in the Rockies unequivocally achieves its mission to nurture the character development of youth.
Ramah in the Rockies has successfully created an oasis where Judaism is lived, taught, and celebrated for eight weeks each summer. Over 600 young people (480+ campers and 120+ staff) visit the ranch each summer. In August we close our doors and the ranch sits dormant for the following nine months.
With a 360-acre ranch and robust backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking, service-learning, and equine programs both on and off site, we hope to integrate best practices of the outdoor behavioral healthcare community into our curriculum. We will not solve all the problems in the Jewish community relating to addiction and behavioral health, but we need to begin. When we are successful, we hope to be an inspiration and an example for other agencies wanting to address other Jewish populations needing to be brought out of the shadows and into the warm embrace of the American Jewish community.
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Bamidbar Wilderness Therapy is a program of Ramah in the Rockies.