The idea of Jews camping or jumping out of airplanes for the heck of it seems like an oxymoron to many. But Jewish groups across the country are increasingly planning outdoor events — running the gamut from camping, biking, hiking, skiing and even jumping out of airplanes.
For those who doubt it, Lew Groner, co-president of Jewish Outdoor Adventures, has a quick retort: “But we were the original campers in history! Jews camped in the desert for 40 years — no Gore-Tex and stoves.”
Of course, some Jewish adventure groups exist mostly for Jews to meet other Jews, without much Jewish content. For example, Jski in Southern California regularly rides up to Mammoth Mountain on Friday night for skiing on Saturday and Sunday.
“To be very honest, we do nothing religious,” says Howard Amster, leader of Jski, which has a mailing list of 330. He added, “If people want to do something religious, we wouldn’t prevent that.”
Besides, when a bunch of Jews get together, Jewish conversations are inevitable. On Death Valley hikes to the Golden Canyon and Ubehebe Crater, discussions of Jewish traditions, rituals, Torah and politics — namely, Barack Obama’s attitude toward Israel — interspersed more frivolous conversations of movies, fashion, dating and the actual task of hiking, cooking and camping outside.