camaraderie in the
West Virginia wilderness.
JENNIFER FINER STAFF WRITER
Most of us felt a Jewish connectedness to our fellow
adventurers. While many of us had never met before, we
shared some of the same experiences. This was most ev-
ident when we sat around a campfire, singing Hebrew
songs mixed in with tunes by James Taylor and other
The next day, Saturday, we divided into groups. Some
of us went rock climbing and rappelling. Others chose
hiking or mountain-biking.
Those of us who climbed had a spectacular view
of the river. From 1,000 feet up, we could see ant-
sized rafts in the current. If you listened closely,
you could hear the screams from the rafters below.
We also had a spectacular view of some of the tree-
covered mountains on the other side of the river.
While climbing and rappelling are individual and
not team sports, we made it into a group effort as
we cheered for each successful climb or rappel.
I was one of the last people to rappel down the
side of the 240- foot cliff I almost didn't go. My friend
Dave — we just met a few hours before — went last.
"Tllgo if you go," we said to each other. I was scared.
OK, terrified. You couldn't see over the cliff, mak-
ing it that much more terrifying. My friend Randi
went before us. As she began her descent, I put
on a harness. It was too late to back out. Randi
reached the ground and the guide then pulled the
rope back up. "I don't think I want to do this," I said.
Actually, I really wanted to do it. It was a once-in-
a-lifetime opportunity that was safer than it looked.
Still, I was scared. People I really didn't know were
telling me how much fun they had and that I
shouldn't be afraid.
The ropes were connected to my harness and I
began leaning back and taking small backwards
steps down the slope. The rock under my feet came
to an end and I hung there. Slowly I moved the rope
through my hands, trying to take in as much of the
scenery as I could.
I heard Randi talking to me, but I couldn't see
her. My only view was the tops of trees, the rock
formation several feet in front of me and the river
in the distance.
The whole descent took a few
minutes and the ground under my
Many of the
feet felt great. And other experi-
the 240 foot
ences were yet to come.
We woke up the next morning
to do what we all went to West Virginia to do — raft-
We put our eight rafts into the water mid-morning on
Sunday and headed down the river. The first several
miles seemed like a combination of smooth, slow-mov-
ing water, great for canoeing, and a choppy day on Lake
Where were the rapids, we wondered, and was it too
late to turn around?
PHOTO BY J ENN IFER FINER
he image of over 80 young
Jewish adults spending a long
weekend camping, hiking,
white-water rafting and moun-
tain-biking in West Virginia seemed
a little strange.
I hate to perpetuate stereotypes,
but I really was having a hard time
To my surprise, veteran and novice
campers successfully conquered
Memorial Day weekend in the great
outdoors, loving every minute.
We were given the option of sleeping in a tent or spend-
ing our nights in a hotel room. One person chose the ho-
tel and by the third night he, too, was out under the stars.
For many of us, this was a weekend of adventure, self-
discovery and new friendships.
A colleague of mine asked if there was anything Jew-
ish about the trip. I told her about how certain activi-
ties can make one religious. Taking backwards steps
off a 240-foot cliff, connected only to a harness and a
few ropes, then rappelling the rest of the way down
seemed to be a good time to pray. So was pulling our
rafts over for an optional 15-foot jump off a boulder
called Jump Rock and riding a Class V rapid charac-
terized as "exceedingly difficult, long, and violent rapids
following each other without interruption; riverbend
extremely obstructed; big drops; violent currents; very
These types of activities can instantly make anyone
religious. Many of us definitely prayed a lot and won-
dered if we should recite the Sh'ma.
Actually, in all seriousness, the trip did have Jewish
content. It was evident at the beginning. After we set up
tents, probably 20 or more, it was time for Shabbat.
Most people don't get to experience a Friday night
Shabbat dinner under the stars or an outdoor Shabbat
and Havdalah service.
Here we were, more than 80 of us dazed from a 10-
hour bus ride and anticipating an exciting weekend, sit-
ting outside reciting the Sabbath blessings and coming
together for an unconventional Friday night dinner in
the West Virginia wilderness.
The cooks prepared the chicken, the soup and the rest
of the meal. We sat at our campsite's picnic tables, which
were covered in white plastic tablecloths, and ate off pa-