|On top of the world are, from left, club president Eliyahu Friedman; Arthur Poleyeff, TABC’s principal; club members Asher Radensky, Chanan Schnaidman, and Dan Friedman; and club adviser Howard E. Friedman. Courtesy Howard Friedman|
Eliyahu (Eli) Friedman, a June graduate of Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck, is one of 10 finalists for the L.L. Bean Outdoor Heroes Award. Of the 10, five will become L.L. Bean Outdoor Heroes.
Eli was nominated for his role as the founding president of TABC’s Outdoors Club. A two-minute video interview will be posted on the L.L. Bean website and Eli’s picture will appear in thousands of L.L. Bean catalogues. People from across the country will have the opportunity to vote for the winners at www.llbean.com/heroeswww.llbean.com/heroes. Should Eli be voted a winner, TABC will be awarded a $5,000 grant and will receive a gift card from L.L. Bean.
Eli founded the Outdoors Club in January 2010, with support from the school’s administration as well as his father, Howard Friedman, the club’s adviser. The club, he told The Jewish Standard, was designed to “open up people to a whole new world.”
“There is a wide world that’s open and people shouldn’t have to be cooped up in their homes and cities,” he said.
The club’s first hike took place in the Ramapo State Forest in Bergen County in 19-degree, icy weather. The club hikes as well in Ramapo Reservation in Passaic County, and in the Palisades State Park and Harriman State Park in New York. It has also made trips to the Gravity Vault, an indoor climbing gym in Upper Saddle River, for certification in climbing and in belaying, a general term for a variety of techniques using ropes. One hike in March 2010 included post-holing through two to three feet of snow. The club plans to expand its activities to include overnight trips and snowshoeing in the winter.
In his interview for the L.L. Bean website, Eli praised TABC’s administration for supporting the formation of the Outdoors Club.
“I think starting the club has made me more confident in myself,” Eli said in that interview. “Standing up in front of the student body to announce hikes was uncomfortable at first, but now it’s routine. Now I’m known around school as the ‘outdoor club’ guy.”
Eli was determined to get the Outdoors Club established before he graduated in June 2011. He has been accepted to The Cooper Union’s electrical engineering program and hopes to establish an outdoors club there as well.
Eli came to his appreciation for the outdoors through years of family hiking, camping, and backpacking trips in New York and New Jersey State Parks, including the Catskills and the Adirondacks. “It’s nice to go outside and breathe fresh air and see the amazing scenery,” Eli told the Standard.
Over the years, he has taught himself necessary skills such as starting a fire from tinder, pitching tents and tarps, cooking with a lightweight alcohol stove, and leave-no-trace practices. He has tried to impart these lessons to the club members. Eli also has volunteered his time on many occasions to accompany his father to perform trail maintenance for the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference.
Noam Safier contributed to this report.