The Achdoot program is a camping excursion for students in 7th – 9th grade.

Over the course of 3-4 days, students are completely immersed in the natural world. From the moment they watch the sunrise during shacharit (morning prayers) until the sun sets and the campfire is lit, students are encouraged to become acutely aware of the wonders, rhythms, beauty and challenges of all that is around them.

The goals of Achdoot are fourfold:

  1. to foster group cohesion and community development,
  2. to teach wilderness skills,
  3. to develop self-esteem, and
  4. to cultivate Jewish environmental ethics.

tree hug4,000 years ago, the Israelites formed their identity as a people through a 40-year journey in the wilderness. Similarly, Achdoot participants will come together through a variety of natural challenges that they will face such as fire-building, and food preparation. These natural challenges will be complemented by group building activities and initiatives that teach the importance of good communication skills and the power of cooperation.

As citizens of a post-modern society we have lost many of the skills our ancestors used for survival. During this program, students will re-learn forgotten crafts and skills: how to make fires and natural shelters, how to cook and clean outdoors, and the nutritional and medicinal uses of local flora.

Students will rely on the land for basic needs such as warmth and water. Modern conveniences such as showers and electricity will not be available, and they will have with them everything they need for four days of adventure. Yet, with the guidance of Teva educators and chaperones, students will learn how to thrive in their new environment. They will emerge more confident and independent; they will return to civilization having developed a more intimate relationship with the natural world.

Prayers are facilitated jointly by students and Teva educators and are usually student led. Teva melodies and relevant nature-themed teachings enrich prayers already familiar to students. Blessings are said before and after eating. Additionally, blessings for other natural events are taught as a means of encouraging awareness, wonder and gratitude for the natural world.

Achdoot takes place in a rustic forest campsite at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. Located in Falls Village, CT, the southern part of the Berkshires, Isabella Freedman is situated on a serene 450 acres of mountains, pasture and lakes.

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