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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Rabbi Korngold's Thought about Passover During the War

On Shabbat, I was on a mountain bike ride south of Boulder, when my 14-year-old cousin texted from Jerusalem.
“The bombs are coming here,” he wrote.
I stopped riding and immediately checked the news. Drones and missiles were heading toward Israel. I jumped on my bike to ride home and all the while I stayed on with him. We texted back and forth and eventually, we switched to a phone call and then I could also check in with his parents, Molly and David. I attempted to reassure him, to comfort him with our connection, but truly I mostly tried to distract him. What could I possibly offer from so far away in Colorado?
My young cousin was terrified that he and his family would not survive the Iranian attack, or that they would survive, but the house would not. Or that the house would, but Israel would not. And alongside his existential fear, was the very normative disappointment of a kid who was supposed to go on a hiking trip for Spring Break, but now couldn’t go. He seethed, “Those stupid Iranians ruined our Spring Break,” right alongside, “We all might be dead in two hours.”
Meanwhile, his two younger sisters focused their fear on their Dad's vulnerability. David was supposed to be headed to Gaza in 8 hours for active duty. He did not enter the safe room. Rather, he stood outside the safe room, gun in hand, to protect the family in case their neighbors attacked. Let me explain.
My cousins live in a part of Jerusalem with side-by-side Arab-Israeli and Jewish-Israeli neighborhoods. Before Oct 7, Molly had been working at a start-up incubator, helping her Arab neighbors bring their own start-up companies to fruition. Just six months ago, she was attending their graduation parties and weddings, and now she and David were realistically scared that their neighborhoods might attack them.  
The explosions grew louder and more frequent. Molly explained that they were both the Arab neighbors celebrating the attack with firecrackers and the Iranian missiles and drones being blown up by the Israeli protective shield. Both were equally terrifying to my young cousin.
And then, it seemed the bombing had stopped. My cousins, their house, and the State of Israel had survived.
We are all so thankful for the technology, intellect, bravery, and alliances that stopped 99% of the rockets, missiles, and drones.
Many of us have similar stories. There is no shortage of them.
I have not often shared my thoughts during this terrifying war nor written enough about the hostages facing unimaginable horrors. I find that I write something to send out, and then the situation changes so quickly that it is no longer relevant.  

How do I feel today? 
I, like many of you, remain steadfast in my support of Israel, even if I don’t agree with the current ruling coalition.
I, like many of you, remain steadfast in the need for a Jewish state, especially amidst the growing antisemitism in the world.
I, like many of you, understand that in order for the Jews to live in peace, the Gazans also need to live in peace. There are two peoples on this land, and neither of them is going anywhere.
I, like many of you, understand that Hamas must be destroyed, not only for the Israelis’ future, but also for the Gazans’ future.
I, like many of you, NOW understand that many groups who I thought were Jewish allies, such as the progressive left, are not our allies. They do not see us as vulnerable. They see us as oppressors. They do not know the history or the context of the Middle East conflict. They do not know important pieces of our history – the Pogroms, the Holocaust, the countries (such as Spain, England, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Morocco,) that evicted their Jews, or the countries (such as the US and Canada) who closed their door on Jews seeking sanctuary during World War II. They know neither the modern nor the ancient history of Israel. They do not understand that Hamas’ goal is the annihilation of Israel.
I, like many of you, NOW understand the latent antisemitism thrums right below the surface, ready to break free. It is ugly. It is scary. It is here.
I, like many of you, NOW understand the danger of binary thinking. The war is bad, but ending the war before Hamas is destroyed, is worse. Most Israelis have accepted that this is not a binary situation. Rather it is a tragic one. There are only bad options. If Israel does not destroy Hamas, Gaza has no future. Why? Hamas will shoot missiles at Israel and Israel will retaliate. No one will invest in the rebuilding of Gaza knowing it will be destroyed. If Israel does not destroy Hamas, Gazans will have no future.*
I, like many of you, NOW understand that Israel’s survival is not assured. If Israel does not destroy Hamas, what kind of future will Israel have? Micah Goodman, one of the most influential public intellectuals in Israel, explains that if Israel does not destroy Hamas, the Middle East will lose its fear of Israel, knowing that Israel doesn’t have the strength to go through to the end, and the Jihadists forces will start bullying Israel. Israelis will lose their trust in Israel to keep them safe, as Israel deteriorates into a civil war of a blame game. Then there will be an economic crisis because who will invest in a country that can’t protect itself? The wealthy and educated will leave Israel. Without them, Israel will grow weaker. Then, when only the weakest are left, Iran will come in and destroy what is left.*
I, like many of you, NOW understand the incompatibility of the goals Israel must navigate. Israel needs the West to love them so that the West will support the war politically, financially, and militarily. But at the same time, Israel needs the Middle East to fear them. Fear and love? How to do both? Everything that Israel must do to restore fear in the Middle East will lose the love of the West. But without the support of the West, they cannot finish this through to the end and win the war.
The West loved Israel after Oct 7, but now, Israel is reviled. Although perhaps the Iranian attacks will remind the world of how vulnerable Israel actually is? I don’t know.
I, like many of you, feel frightened, shocked, and overwhelmed. But I also feel immeasurable proud of my Israeli family – in this case meaning all Israelis – for their bravery and fortitude.
The final words of the Passover seder are, “Next year in Jerusalem.” For two thousand years, while the Jewish people lived in exile from Israel our homeland, these words reflected our hope that someday our people would return to Zion, to Israel, to our ancient ancestral birthplace.
This year, let us read “Next year in Jerusalem,” as an expression of hope that next year, a new paradigm will thrive in Israel. We pray for a future in which Gaza is rebuilt and money goes not to tunnel building but to schools and health care. We pray for a future in which Israelis no longer have to fear their neighbors not because they are hiding in safe rooms but because they are living in a safe country in a safe region. We pray for a future in which a 14-year-old boy calls his cousin to talk about biking rather than bombs and mountains rather than missiles. We pray for a future in which Israelis and Gazans live in peace.

We pray, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
 - Rabbi Jamie Korngold, D.D.

Rabbi Jamie Korngold is the founder of Adventure Rabbi and Adventure Judaism. She holds a DD and MHL from Hebrew Union College and a BS from Cornell University. She is the author of 11 books and these days can often be found skiing or biking. For more about her work please visit

*From Micah Goodman’s conversation with Amanda Borschel-Dan on the Times of Israel podcast "What Matters Now"

Tuesday, March 12, 2024


Queen Esther and Superman:
A Purim Teaching by Rebecca Shavit-Lonstein


This year, on the 24th of March, is the holiday of Purim. To recap the story of Purim, which is found in the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible, a story is told, of a young Jewish woman living in the Persian empire, who is selected by the Persian King to be his bride. The queen never revealed her Jewish identity and when the king’s right-hand man (Haman) wants to destroy all the Jews throughout the empire, Esther reveals she is Jewish and begs the king not to let Haman kill herself and her people.

“Okay,” you say, “great story and I love to eat Hamantaschen cookies, but what does this have to do with Superman?” Well, what is not widely known, is that Superman is Jewish. He was created in the late 1930s by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who were sons of Lithuanian and Dutch Jewish immigrants. Siegel and Shuster were seeking to create an American superhero who could fight the Nazis. Superman came from the planet Krypton and his name was Kal-El, which means in Hebrew, All God. He grew up in a foreign place (Earth) and was given the very American name Clark Kent.

Just like Queen Esther, whose Hebrew name was Hadassah, Superman can hide his identity. At times he can be Clark, the nerdy, glasses-wearing, journalist who can fit in with the rest of the American white population and when needed he can be his true self, Superman. Superman was created to reflect the dichotomy of the American Jewish immigrant experience.

Superman and Esther are both living in the diaspora, both are orphaned, existing in dual realities, are separated by their uniqueness (Superman has his strength and Esther her royal position), work within the systems they live in, yet go back to their original identity to save many under their protection.

In Esther’s case, unlike Superman who shifted between his two identities, she guards her secret identity until revealing it to the king, which will help save her people from total destruction.

So, let us remember that Queen Esther had the inner strength of Superman’s external strength to stand up, under pain of death, to save the Jewish people, her people, from total annihilation during the rule of the Persian empire.

Have a joyous Purim!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Getting to Know the New Energetic Full-Time Educator at Adventure Judaism

Getting to Know the New Energetic Full-Time Educator at Adventure Judaism

Welcome to Amber Carey-Gitter, the new full-time Educator at the Adventure Judaism Congregation. Amber, an American-Israeli, moved to Boulder from Chicago to accept the position.
Amber is excited to work under the leadership of Rabbi Jamie Korngold. She believes learning should be fun and cares deeply about her students’ experiences. Her enthusiasm for Jewish learning brings an extra spark to every learning experience. In addition to teaching in Adventure Rabbi Kids (ARK), an alternative religious school, Amber tutors students in Hebrew, teaches Individual Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah students, and offers lessons in basic conversational Hebrew. She teaches students on-line, and in-person at the office or the students’ homes.
In September 2019, Amber will offer an energetic musical movement class for preschool through kindergarten-age children.
In Chicago, Amber was a Judaic instructor at Oak Park Temple, which is known as one the largest reform synagogues in the Chicagoland area. She was also children’s theatre instructor at the Theatre of Western Springs and Beyond the Stars Performing Arts Academy, and a former political science adjunct instructor at Aurora University. Amber received a BS in economics and business administration from DePaul University in Chicago, and an MA in political science & political communication from Tel-Aviv University in Israel.
To learn more about Amber, visit

D’var Shana by Eliza Serlen

D’var Shana by Eliza Serlen

Bar Mitzvah Class in Moab
A poignant full-moon moment for the Adventure B’nai Mitzvah Class
As part of their Bat Mitzvah or Bar Mitzvah ceremony, graduates of Adventure Judaism’s Adventure B’nai Mitzvah class are asked to write a Dvar Shana, thoughts about the year. To write the speech, the students look back at the journal they were required to keep. They make an entry after each of the class’s 15 expeditions. At the end of their journey, we ask them to read through the entries and reflect on what they learned about themselves, Judaism, and community and put it in a speech called D’var Shana.  Eliza Serlen became a Bat Mitzvah on June 15, 2019 and this is her D’var Shana.

D’var Shana – Thoughts About the Year

by Eliza Serlen

This year has been interesting in the best possible sense of the word. From slipping around on the ice and mud during our snowshoe hike to setting marshmallows on fire (or, alternatively, trying to avoid getting your marshmallow lit aflame) with wooden sticks, it’s all been hilarious and magical.
With my class, I also shared more serious, intimate experiences like enjoying the full moon on a quiet, snow-covered trail, and treasured moments with my friends and family.
Everything this year was fantastic, but one of my favorite classes I experienced during my time in the Adventure Class was called Iron Chef Shabbat. Imagine putting twenty kids in a room, with basic recipes for matzah ball soup and challah, and letting them go wild with a fun variety of ingredients like potato chips and chocolate milk. It’s just as fun as it is messy!
My team didn’t win, but we had tons of fun anyway. And, personally, I think our food was pretty delicious! We added chocolate chips and cinnamon to our challah, and shaped it into tiny loaves — one for each member of the group. In regards to the matzah balls, we may have added a bit too much garlic powder to ours, but they turned out fairly well regardless!
Another class this year was a three-day Passover retreat to Moab, Utah. The night we got to Moab, the Adventure Class set out on a full moon hike to Corona Arch, mostly without flashlights. While climbing a ladder up a steep ledge, and using a rope to get up a cliffside slope in the dark were both terrifying for me, if I’m being honest, it was all worth it. Looking up, it felt like you could see forever — every single star in the sky was within your view.
The services we did for Passover weren’t just sitting at a table and listening — instead, we got to hike! And when we weren’t hiking or doing organized activities, we were hanging out by the river, falling into the river, skipping rocks, making mud babies, freaking out over various card games, or just sitting and talking about anything and everything, hanging around and having fun.
The entire experience of the Adventure Class taught me a few lessons about responsibility, acceptance, charity, and crucial life skills to succeed throughout my life — these important values brought me this far and developed my character, and I will need these values in becoming a Bat Mitzvah.
Above all though, this class teaches concepts of kindness, one of the most important qualities in anyone’s life. Acts of kindness can simply be giving smiles to those people around you, to both people that you’ve known for a long time and to strangers you may never see again.
From small actions like holding the door for a person passing through it, to larger ones like spending an hour or two picking up garbage from a local park, every little act of kindness is important.
The Adventure Class, regardless of what the particular lesson’s focus is, always finds a way to incorporate kindness. It could be anything from making sure people aren’t forced to hike behind our large group by pulling to the side a minute to let them pass, to spending a class actually doing community service, to simply ensuring that we leave behind nothing but footprints upon completing a hike.
This has been an incredible experience topped off by the incredible day with all of you. Thank you so much, everyone, for being here to celebrate my bat mitzvah with me today!

“You Shall Teach Them Digitally to Your Children.” – (Deut. 6:7 Adapted)

“You Shall Teach Them Digitally to Your Children.” – (Deut. 6:7 Adapted)

“We have to change our lifestyle,” said the busy San Francisco mom on a phone call to Adventure Rabbi Jamie Korngold. “Between soccer, swimming, theater, and Hebrew lessons, we are in the car a zillion hours a day. I can’t even remember the last time we sat down for dinner together. I heard you help families like mine. Help!”
This is a typical call to “Adventure Judaism Headquarters,” as their small office in South Boulder is fondly called by its staff of three rabbis and three educators.
Adventure Judaism online educator Amber Carey-Gitter
People turn to online learning for many different reasons including saving time, ease of scheduling, and access to skilled teachers. With 19 years of experience teaching Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah students online, the Adventure Judaism teachers are the experts.
“When we pioneered online education in 2001, we had a student in Bangkok – Max Wolfe- with a teacher in LA, – Bradley Cohen – and the connection on Skype was so sketchy that Brad couldn’t always tell if Max was pronouncing the “s” Hebrew letters correctly.” Korngold also reminisces about a student in Colorado Springs with whom she lost the connection every time it rained.
The technology that enables online education has come a long way since 2001. Today the team at Adventure Judaism uses GoToMeeting, Facetime, and Skype to prepare Bar and Bat Mitzvah students all over the world, without technological incident.
“My kids are so used to screens,” says Miriam from Atlanta GA “that they ease into their lessons and connect easily with the teacher. My kids actually look forward to their Hebrew lessons with Amber!”
And indeed, the students do appear to be loving their Bar Mitzvah lessons. “What surprised me the most,” says Rhonda from Boulder CO, “was the laughter. I peek in during lessons and they go like this – Hebrew, laughter, Hebrew, laughter. Who knew religious school could be this much fun?”
Beach Bar Mitzvah follows months of online Hebrew lessons
Adventure Judaism has no plans to offer online ceremonies. Rather, one of the rabbis packs up his or her  guitar, the  Torah, and prayer books and meets the family wherever the family chooses. This summer found Rabbi Korngold in France, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California and Boulder; Rabbi Goldsmith in British Columbia, Canada; and Rabbi Yakar in Winter Park, Colorado  and Lake Tahoe, California. Clearly, wherever your (or your child’s) dream Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah ceremony is, these adventurous rabbis will meet you there.

Mazel Tov to Dan McGrady on His Conversion to Judaism

Mazel Tov to Dan McGrady on His Conversion to Judaism

The Jewish community at large offers welcome and mazel tov, as well as blessings for health and happiness, to Dan McGrady, who completed the process of conversion to Judaism this Shabbat.
Dan McGrady has been practicing Judaism for over 14 years, which is when he met his wife Rochelle Schwartz. What finally prompted him to convert? “Well,” says McGrady, “my then 11-year old said, ‘So are you really going to convert Dad?’ I realized I absolutely wanted to be called to the Torah for an aliyah when he became a Bar Mitzvah, so I got serious.”
Getting serious meant taking Haver’s conversion course, Ikar, and studying privately with Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith, one of the rabbis at Adventure Judaism.  “Although we have always celebrated Shabbat, we upped our practice,”  says McGrady. Rabbi Lynne chimes in, “And Dan read and read and read. He is an ardent reader who thinks deeply and always poses fascinating questions for us to explore.”
Finally, McGrady sat before a Beit Din – Rabbi Deborah Bronstein,  Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith, and Rabbi Jamie Korngold.  “His answers were so profound,” said Korngold. “We couldn’t wait to welcome him to the tribe!”

D’var Shana – Thoughts About My Year in the Online Bar Mitzvah Program

Wolfe and Harper studied online with the Adventure Judaism distance learning program and then met Rabbi Jamie Korngold in Carmel by the Sea for their joint Beach B’nai Mitzvah. This is a speech Wolfe gave at his ceremony.
Alternative Beach B'nai Mitzvah
After studying online, students meet their rabbi on the beach for their dream B’nai Mitzvah.
Driving home from school on Tuesdays, we usually only had five minutes to spare until my FaceTime Hebrew class began with my  Adventure Judaism teacher Elaine. Running into the house....

D’var Shana: Reflections on My Year Becoming a Bat Mitzvah with the Adventure Rabbi

Maddie Wittenberg recently became a  Bat Mitzvah with Adventure Judaism. In this essay, she reflects on her year of study.
By Maddie Wittenberg
Can any of you remember your first Bar/Bat Mitzvah or confirmation class? Many of you here, today, might not remember all the details. Did you even remember how you prepared for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or a confirmation ceremony? For me, I remember my entire Bat-Mitzvah preparations at Adventure Judaism. It consisted of me meeting with two of my close friends for an hour a week where we had amazing Hebrew classes, which also consisted of learning ancient Hebrew prayers.
But it also included hiking trips! One hiking trip, in particular, was trekking to the top of a 10,000-foot peak in the rain, sun, and even brutal hail. This was my very first Adventure Class where we experienced trekking through various seasons all on the same day, and this was also part of my Bat-Mitzvah training. The purpose of my Adventure B’nai Mitzvah Class was to spiritually connect with nature through Judaism, and learn about myself as well. 
Adventure Bar Mitzvah Class beneath Coronoa Arch
Adventure Bar Mitzvah Class beneath Corona Arch
When I think about my overall experience in the Adventure B’nai Mitzvah Class, I realize, now, my experiences had their ‘ups and downs’; for example, in one particular a


Maddie Makes Much of Shabbat with Mishpacha

Maddie Wittenberg recently became a Bat Mitzvah with Adventure Judaism. In this essay, she reflects on her Shabbat Project.
One of my Bat-Mitzvah requirements with Adventure Judaism’s Adventure B’nai Mitzvah Class was to try out four different Shabbat practices so that I could learn about myself and the importance of establishing Jewish traditions in my life. One practice that I liked very much was reconnecting with my grandparents on every Erev Shabbat, which is every Friday, by calling or texting. Another Shabbat custom that I liked was baking homemade Challah and creating a Shabbat dinner for my family.

B'nai MItzvah Class Iron Chef Shabbat Showdown

Annika’s Adventures in the Adventure B’nai Mitzvah Class

Annika Aumentado became a Bat Mitzvah on July 13, 2019 with the Adventure B’nai Mitzvah Class. In this essay, called a D’var Shana, she shares her reflections on her year filled with challenge and growth. 
Throughout my time in the Adventure Class this year, I learned a lot about responsibility through making sure that I was being safe, the people around me were being safe, and that we were all prepared for whatever class we were attending. I also learned about working together because our class became a tight community through all the hikes, activities, and the group discussions we had during the hikes.