“Mountain trip combines hikes, services”
By Cindy Sutter, Camera Staff Writer
September 11, 2004
Hiking and biking in canyon country.
It sounds more like a travel brochure than an invitation to religious services. But Rabbi Jamie Korngold, aka the Adventure Rabbi, has specialized in helping people join their spiritual experiences of the outdoors with Judaism. This year, she will combine hikes and bike rides in the mountains and canyons near Grand Junction with High Holy Day services at a synagogue there.
“We going to bring people outdoors, where many of us already have our most spiritually profound moments,” says Korngold, executive director of Adventure Rabbi: Synagogue Without Walls.
Korngold, who also is a part-time rabbi at Har HaShem in Boulder and spiritual leader of Ohr Shalom in Grand Junction, leads regular hikes in the Boulder area. On this trip, participants may attend regular High Holy Day services at Ohr Shalom in addition to participating in the hikes or bike rides.
“When we return to the synagogue for services, we will already be in a spiritually elevated place,” she says. The hikes and mountain biking will be led by her and two Rabbi Adventure hiking guides and one mountain biking guide.
During the hikes, which she characterizes as intermediate in difficulty by Boulder standards, participants are given time to experience the beauty of the scenery and reflect on its spiritual meaning.
“What we do is stop along the way at various spots and do various readings or have discussions to help crystallize what the High Holy Days are all about,” Korngold says. “Often the leaders will give the participants a little bit of time to themselves to go off for a few minutes. To slow down a bit, to focus on the sounds and the sights. To really be present in the wilderness, to create a little oasis.”
Michelle Albert, a University of Colorado instructor in the program for writing and rhetoric, is one of the roughly 40 people who are signed up to attend.
Albert, who grew up attending Reform services in Baltimore and recently joined Har HaShem here, has been participating in Korngold’s events for about a year. She says the hikes have helped her integrate Judaism, spirituality and nature into her daily life.
“(The hikes) have really broadened what Judaism means to me, how Judaism can be experienced and practiced,” she says. “It connects with more aspects of my life. It’s not just a segment. Not just Friday night is Shabbat and the rest of the week you don’t think about being Jewish.”
Albert, who studied Buddhism at Naropa, says she now has found in her own cultural tradition of Judaism some of the same sense of connection and awareness she found in Buddhism. She is particularly looking forward to experiencing the High Holy Days in the mountains.
“Being away out of town in a new and stunningly beautiful environment will really allow me to be conscious and aware of the meaning of the day,” she says. “More than if I just stay in a routine, take time out for a dinner and service and go back to work the next day.
“Rosh Hashana is a time of renewal, the beginning of a new year. What a better place to do it in the middle of a beautiful outdoor setting. I can’t imagine a better place to set a good, positive intention for the coming year.”