Rabbi offers religion wrapped in wilderness
By Lu Snyder ,
January 12, 2002
BOULDER - Many people would argue skiing is a religion. For Jamie
Korngold, skiing brought her to religion. Now she is a rabbi.
"I was a ski bum for seven years," Korngold said. "I was a massage
therapist in Vail, which is very spiritual work and I was looking
for a way to reach more people. For me, my spirituality has always
been very connected to wilderness."
While it might surprise some to hear of a female rabbi, Korngold
said it is not unusual - women have been ordained by the Reform
movement (of which she is a part) for over 30 years and nowadays,
about half of the classes are women.
To know the woman has travelled from ski bum to rabbi, it might
not be surprising that she has decided against the traditional rabbinical
path of serving a congregation.
There is a shortage of rabbis worldwide, Korngold said. As a result,
rabbis often have more demands place upon them than they have time
to give to their congregation. This was one of the biggest frustrations
she experienced while a congregational rabbi.
So Korngold and a group of friends created Adventure Rabbi Inc.
One might say Korngold is a consultant of sorts. With Adventure
Rabbi, she offers rabbinical services to Jews who are not members
of a congregation. And because she is not tied to a congregation,
her flexible schedule allows her to work around her clientsí needs.
She offers life-cycle events - such as weddings - in untraditional
"Iím more than happy to create a wedding thatís on a mountain peak,
or as part of a backcountry trip, or a raft trip," Korngold said.
Korngold prides herself on being able to craft spiritual adventures
and ceremonies which are outside the box. And after seven years
as a ski bum, five summers as a mountain guide, and an athletic
resume that includes the Leadville 100 Trail Run, half-ironman triathlons,
and cycling across the country, there is little - if anything -
she can't do for her clients. And that might set her apart from
her fellow rabbis.
"I like to call it Ďa la carte rabbinical services," she said.
"Half of what I do is life-cycle events for individuals. The other
half is adventurous retreats with a Jewish twist."
Those retreats could be a day or month long. Korngold wishes only
to fulfill her clients needs and desires.
One such retreat stands out among the highlights of her time as
Korngold knew a couple whom had met each other while working at
the Grand Canyon. The couple had since adopted a girl, who was not
Jewish, and they wanted to have a conversion ceremony for their
daughter in the Grand Canyon. So the group took a week and backpacked
into the base of the canyon, where they performed the conversion.
"I think it was a transformative experience for all of us," Korngold
said. "For some of (the guests), Judaism was something very external
for them and when they experienced this conversion at the depths
of the canyon, Judaism became very alive to them."
Which, in a nutshell, is what Adventure Rabbi is about: the connection
between religion and the spirituality inherent in the natural world,
in the wilderness.
"The best part of it is the smiles on peoples faces when I'm able
to help them connect - either with a deeper part of themselves,
with another person, or with their Creator," Korngold said.
One of the things that surprised her about Adventure Rabbi, Korngold
said, is that people who are not Jewish have come to her for weddings.
"They are looking for something spiritual that is not religious,"
she said. "We use the metaphors of the wilderness to create a wedding
ceremony that represents who they are as people. It wasn't something
that I anticipated but it's turned out to be a wonderful part of
what I do."