Rabbi says bye to synagogue, hi to nature

Rabbi Shalom Bochner, who until recently was the director of lifelong learning at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, has left the synagogue and launched a new venture that organizes and leads wilderness retreats for Jewish groups.

Rabbi Shalom Bochner

Alma Retreats offers mainly Shabbat weekend camping retreats that can be tailored to an organization or a congregation’s observance level and other needs. Activities include prayer services, hiking, stargazing, plant and animal identification, campfire singing, and interactive text and Torah study.

“Alma” is an Aramaic word meaning “world” or “universe,” Bochner noted.

“Having run Jewish educational programs that are based outside for more than 20 years, I know the huge impact that these experiences have,” Bochner said. “Spending a Shabbat together in nature enhances powerful connections with community, our heritage, and with one’s own soul. Participants return to their congregations and communities with a renewed energy and commitment.”

Retreats last month included an East Bay Minyan group camping at Del Valle Regional Park near Livermore and a Netivot Shalom group retreat at Little Basin in the Santa Cruz mountains. Bochner said offerings will expand in the coming year; for more information, visit www.almartreats.com.