A list of all the basic questions answered about our program

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a Wilderness Program?

A: “Wilderness therapy is a mental health treatment strategy for adolescents with maladaptive behaviors. Wilderness programs combine therapy with challenging experiences in an outdoor wilderness environment to “kinetically engage clients on cognitive, affective, and behavioral levels.”  

quoted from https://aspiroadventure.com

Q: What type of boy does the VLE accept?

A: Boys between the ages of 14-17, and sometimes 13. We don’t accept 18-year-olds unless they’re mandated by the Court, because legally they can just walk off.

Q: What is the average stay at the VLE?

A: The VLE is a 30-day program. But the 30 days only begin once the boy stops resisting and begins to participate in the program. Therefore, we tell parents that the VLE is a 30-60 day program.

Q: When does the V.L.E. operate?

A: We are open all year round. Registration is currently open.

Q: What is the cost?

A: $15,000 for the first month, then a per diem fee of $500 per day, paid in advance, in 2-week increments. The balance will be refunded if the boy leaves before the funds have been used.

Q: Is the VLE a religious program?

A: The boys don’t have to be religious, but the staff and the environment are. Unlike secular programs, Shabbos is dedicated to therapy, meals, and non-Melacha activities. We offer Kosher food, Eiruv, etc. We offer “quiet time” where campers can choose to Daven. We will be open during the Yomim Tovim, on campus. We will decide, based on the current group, what to do on the Yomim Nora’im.

Q: What behaviors must a boy be exhibiting to consider attending the VLE?

A: The VLE focuses on boys whose behavior is impulsive, aggressive, have experienced trauma, grapple with anxiety, and/or don’t believe in themselves. Many VLE clients still consider themselves to be Yeshiva students. Nevertheless, their inability to follow instructions, their tendencies to become angry, even violent, may require them to seek intense treatment.


The VLE isn’t a customized program specifically geared for substance abuse, although many boys have actively used drugs. Similarly, we aren’t a program that deals exclusively with adopted children, overweight, etc. Sometimes we can help them but, other times, it may be best to go to another program that dedicates its energies to that specific challenge.

Q: Why send a boy to a wilderness program instead of finding them a mentor?

A: This is a great question and must be decided on a case-by-case basis. It is primarily decided by the individual and intangible factors. The two primary considerations are:


1) A boy who avoids being controlled by running to one parent over the other, a Rebbi, or a friend, who may even run from the house, or break things at home when asked to conform; such boys won’t change unless they are in a controlled environment. A wilderness program is just that, controlled, where boys realize that, unlike their parents, the staff is firm, patient and will consistently respond with a cause-and-effect approach.


2) Parents are concerned that the boy is spiraling down at such a quick pace that they feel the need to consider a wilderness program to break the boy’s present momentum.

Q: What do they do in a wilderness program?

What we do is less important than the change we create. Boys do many things, such as daily hikes, 2 3-day hikes per month, some construction, and learning how to survive in the outdoors.


But where the change really happens is during the twice-daily group therapy sessions and the twice-weekly individual therapy sessions. As significant are the life skills learned while informally interacting with staff and the other bods in the VLE.

Q: Where is the VLE located?

A: The VLE operates on a property in Leeds, NY. It is about 2 and ½ hours from New York.

Q: Why send a boy to the VLE instead of any other wilderness program?

A: The VLE is unique simply because it is the only Jewish therapeutic wilderness program in America, possibly the world. Because of this, we offer several distinct advantages:


1) The VLE is an all-boys program.


2) There is a significant difference between a non-Frum boy and a boy who becomes a cultural Goy, as is the case with many who return from a non- Jewish program. Secular wilderness programs, even when their success validates the challenge, create a problem that is avoided at the VLE when they are surrounded by Jews, whether religious or otherwise.


3) The food is Kosher, Shabbos is strictly kept, and, while we do not formally learn Torah with the boys, religion, which is always a major topic, is discussed with a Torah perspective.


4) Discharge planning is as important as the program itself. Secular programs are significantly limited when planning the next few years of a Jewish graduate. While the VLE may also refer a graduate to a secular program, parents are given more input and there is an unparalleled sensitivity that comes along with every decision made in the VLE. In addition, Areivim, the VLE’s parent organization is familiar with many Jewish programs that may serve the graduate as well as secular programs.


5) VLE staff will keep in touch with graduates long after they leave the program. Boys always have an open invitation to our homes for Shabbos. Long-lasting relationships are always available to VLE graduates.

Q: Who is on staff?

A: The team is led by the following well-known professionals.


Program Director: Steve Lewanick,

Psychiatric director: Dr. Ronan Hizami, MD

Therapeutic Director: Avi Lehrer

General Director: Shmuel Gluck

Watch Video to Learn More About the V.L.E.