girls have amazing role models in sports," says Rabbi
Jamie Korngold, the "Adventure Rabbi." Based in
Boulder, Colo., Rabbi Korngold performs wilderness weddings
and backcountry bar mitzvahs. On her website (www.adventurerabbi.com),
she writes, "I am the rabbi who will preach sermons about
skiing as easily as I will about [the Torah portion of] Shemini.
am the rabbi who will take your students to the top of mountains
to pray. As they climb the steep mountain they will feel how
capable they truly are. When they reach a hand to help someone
behind them they will learn how strong community allows them
to be. When they stand on the summit and daven Yotzer
Or' [Creator of Light], they will finally understand what
it means to praise the Creator."
spirituality of the wilderness can awaken Judaism," says
Rabbi Korngold, 37, who was ordained by Hebrew Union College
(HUC) in 1999, served Congregation B'nai Tikvah in Calgary,
Canada, and still holds two part-time pulpits. A call from
a couple who had adopted a daughter from Romania and wanted
to do a conversion and baby-naming at the bottom of the Grand
Canyon sparked the idea for Adventure Rabbi. Rabbi Korngold's
desire to find a balance of body, mind and spirit outside
of the typical synagogue framework has resulted in a pulpit
of a very different kind. She has officiated at weddings at
Yosemite, in the Everglades, on snowmobiles and in teepees.
truth, Rabbi Korngold says, is that "being a rabbi is
an adventure because there's still so much sexism out there.
In its own way, it's an extreme sport." Raised in a religious
Reform home in affluent Westchester, N.Y., Rabbi Korngold
traces her deep connection to the earth back to childhood.
At 13, she spent a "life-changing" summer at a camp
in Maine, where she backpacked, canoed, cycled, sailed and
went deep-sea fishing. "For the first time in my life,
I felt my friends liked me not just for what I wore or how
much money my parents had, not for how pretty I was or what
kinds of grades I got, but simply because of who I was inside."
high school, she joined a 4,200-mile American Youth Hostel
cross-country bike trip. "I never saw myself as an exceptional
athlete, but outdoor sports require different skills: perseverance,
endurance, looking out for others, humor." With a college
degree in natural resources behind her, she took up telemark
skiing, a more athletic, graceful style of alpine skiing,
and even placed fourth in a national mogul championship. She
skied 140 days a year; to support her day "habit,"
she worked odd jobsas a street musician in Japan, massage
therapist, sushi chef, emergency medical technician and Outward
asked by members of the Jewish community in Vail, Colo., if
she would study to become their rabbi (she often led services),
she enrolled in rabbinical school. The challenge was daunting.
"At HUC, I was good but not academically stellar. That
was hard on my self-esteem. Also, there was always constant
public evaluation and judgment. I am a very private person.
I needed something that was just mine, and it needed to be
something I was good at."
marathonsany distance more than 26.2 milesfit
the bill. Running 60 miles a week, the feeling of "I
can do it" spilled over to Talmud classes. She ran the
Leadville Trail 100, a 100-mile foot race over four mountain
passes, in less than 30 hours. "It required complete
concentration and belief in myself," she recalls. After
ordination, she had neither the time nor the mental discipline
to continue distance running, so she switched to triathlons.
Korngold met her husband, Jeff Finkelstein, nine years ago
in Vail, but they started dating only two years ago. An avid
outdoor enthusiast, skier and mountaineer, Finkelstein joins
Korngold to lead most Adventure Rabbi trips together. Life
events and physical risks often mirror each other on their
trips. At weddings, for instance, the couple's emotional risk
in marrying parallels the physical vulnerability of climbing
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