Adventure Rabbi: Synagogue without Walls
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Rabbi Jamie S. Korngold's Personal Statement:

Rabbi Jamie Korngold climbing a 14er La Platta I visited with an old friend this year who, somewhere along the line, had discarded her Judaism like a sweater she once loved but that no longer fit. "I loved being Jewish when I was a kid," she said. "But when I grew up it didn't match what I knew intellectually and it didn't speak a language I could relate to."

Shortly thereafter I went backpacking with a group of students from Williams College. They were bright, idealistic men and women with more interest in Buddhism than Judaism. "We find our spirituality in the canyons,." they told me. And then I spoke with a friend of my father's who said: "I used to go to shul every week. But I could never pray like everyone around me. I couldn't talk to God. So I stopped going."

My heart aches when I hear words like these. And I hear them often. There are too many Jews who have inherited a Judaism that is void of meaning or relevance. There are too many Jews who don't know of a Judaism that is fulfilling, interesting, and joyful. There are too many Jews with no idea that our own religion is rich with opportunities to deepen our relationships with ourselves, with our community, and with our Creator.

My goal as a rabbi is to work with people who know this Judaism and to reach out to those who do not.

I am the rabbi who will preach sermons about skiing as easily as I will about Shemini. My sermons and stories will make you laugh and cry. Sometimes, because you can relate what I described to your life, you will even remember my teaching and discuss it with your friends.

I am the rabbi who will take your students to the top of the mountain to pray shacharit. 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, they will finally understand what it means to praise the Creator.

I am the rabbi who will try to open my mind as wide as I can, to create opportunities for you to relate to the Divine. I will invite you to dance during L'cha Dodi, to listen to a passage from Walt Whitman, or to imagine your grandmother's voice as we bless the candles with the traditional prayer. I will never completely desert the traditional ways, and I will always be mindful of minhag, but I will experiment with the new in order to help each of us discover our own gateway to the Eternal One.

In June of 1999, with the blessing of the faculty of the Hebrew Union College, I stood before the open ark, facing the Rosh Yeshiva. I looked toward the congregation and found my mentor Dr. Meryl Goldman. Her smile reassured me and said: "Yes. Yes, you are ready. Go now." I turned to the Rosh Yeshiva and readied myself to feel his hands on my head, to hear the words of his blessings, to be a rabbi of Israel.

For five years my teachers guided, encouraged and inspired me as I walked the path of Jewish wonder. They taught me to struggle with the text and the tradition until it became my own. May God grant me the wisdom and the courage to follow in the path of my teachers, to guide others as they have guided me.

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