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Adventure Rabbi in the News:
Intermountain Jewish News

Adventure Rabbi combines Judaism, love of outdoors

By Kathryn Bernheimer, IJN Boulder Correspondent

There are two parallel passions in Rabbi Jamie Korngold's life: Judaism and wilderness adventure.

Confounding the laws of physics, not to mention defying tradition, Korngold has found a way to converge those parallel paths in Adventure Rabbi Inc.

Specializing in mountain top services, wilderness weddings and nature retreats, Adventure Rabbi caters to outdoor enthusiasts looking for spiritual meaning outside the synagogue walls.

Rabbi Korngold, who launched the unorthodox Boulder-based business with several friends last fall, did not take a conventional route to the rabbinate.

A former ski bum, massage therapist and wilderness guide, she has also been a street musician in Japan, competed in a Half Ironman Triathlon, is a telemark mogul champion and has bicycled from New York to San Francisco.

She says she has experienced her most profound spiritual moments in nature. But after kicking around the Colorado back country for a decade, she decided she wanted something more.

"I wanted to fulfill my potential intellectually and spiritually," she says during an interview with the IJN.

She had been an active member of B'nai Vail, where she frequently led services. She was encouraged to become a rabbi by members of the board and the congregation who recognized her ability to reflect a mountain community's Jewish spirituality.

She enrolled in Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and was ordained as a Reform rabbi in 1999. During the five years she spent studying, she served as B'nai Vail's assistant rabbi for two years.

Her first pulpit was in Calgary, Canada, where she served a Reform congregation with 220 families. After two years, she was looking for a way to get back to Colorado.

"I was also looking for a way to intertwine my two loves," she adds.

With the encouragement of three friends who agreed to be her business partners, she decided to launch Adventure Rabbi, focusing on what she loved best: Jewish rituals in wilderness settings.

Although based in Boulder, Rabbi Korngold is targeting the mountain communities in Colorado and neighboring states.

"I'm trying to stay out of Boulder," she says frankly. "There's already a vibrant community here and rabbis available to do what I do. There's a need for guidance in the mountain communities."

Most of Adventure Rabbi's current clientele is in Summit County. Rabbi Korngold leads services in Copper Mountain once a month. She launched a Web site in February, www.AdventureRabbi.com.

"One of my frustrations as a congregational rabbi is that 70% of the Jewish population is unaffiliated. When they come to a congregational rabbi, it takes time away from the congregants. That creates a tension. I am not trying to compete with congregational rabbis. I go where it's more difficult for them to go."

Rabbi Korngold adds that she likes the Hillel model of "bringing Judaism to where the Jews are."

"I realize that in the mountains it may not be realistic that Jews won't ski on Shabbat," she says. "But if they can be inspired to take 15 minutes and express their Judaism, that's fabulous. My goal is interjecting Judaism into daily life in a way that is palatable to people.

"I like to show people how spiritual their lives are already and give them a Jewish framework to express that."

Although Adventure Rabbi is open to a wide range of possibilities, the two main activities are weddings and trips.

Adventure Rabbi works with individuals to create trips and rituals. One Florida couple wants a canoe trip. A couple who held a conversion ceremony for their adopted daughter in the Grand Canyon is now planning a Jewish women's yoga retreat in the Grand Canyon.

One family is planning a hike to Delicate Arch for a Bat Mitzvah.

Adventure Rabbi also creates trips and retreats open to anyone who signs up. An "uncamping" retreat at Sorrel River Ranch Resort in Moab, Utah, is planned for Shavuot.

Rabbi Korngold hopes to attract sisterhood groups, synagogue boards and youth groups interested in planning outings.

Requests for weddings range from four-wheel jeep trips to backpacking. One couple is planning a mountaineering wedding "and just wants a rabbi who can keep up," says Rabbi Korngold, who will strap on a backpack and perform the ceremony on a craggy peak.

Rabbi Korngold grew up in Scarsdale in a religious Reform family. Her parents were very involved in creating the Woodlands Community Temple.

"We lived on the Jewish calendar, from Shabbat to Shabbat," she recalls.

After attending Cornell University, where she majored in Natural Resources, she moved west. She became a mountain guide in the summer and skied in the winter.

In Vail she became an active member of the congregation. There she says she experienced twin flowerings of Jewish spirituality and mountain spirituality.

Whenever she needed a "taste of the big city," she visited Boulder, where she had earned her massage therapy certificate after graduating from college.

In searching for a logical home base for Adventure Rabbi, Boulder seemed the natural choice.

Rabbi Korngold says she's enjoying being part of a large Jewish community.

This fall, she will fill in for Rabbi Bronstein at Har HaShem while Rabbi Bronstein is on sabbatical. She says,"I'm doing what I love."

 
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