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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Blog post about Passover in Moab

Here's a nice blog post by Scott Bratt, who attended Passover in Moab.  Bratt runs

Monday, March 6, 2017

Toba Levinson: What I learned about God and Doughnuts

We buried Toba Levinson on a sunny day in late-January, just days after I realized that she had changed my understanding of God.

Those of you who shop at the King Soopers on Table Mesa in Boulder might have known Toba. Or at least seen her. She bagged groceries in the store about 12 years ago.

Toba and her husband Joel moved to Colorado when she was 66. She had owned a  book store back east. It was a cozy nook of a store. Regulars would stop by to get a cup a coffee, catch up on the local gossip and visit with Toba.  I think books may have been beside the point. The point was Toba – always there with a keen observation, a listening ear, a wide-open heart and an even open wider open mind.  

When Toba moved to Boulder to be closer to her children and grandchildren, she found it difficult to meet people. One day the manager at King Soopers offered her a job, “Not everyone knows to put the eggs on top, and I see you do,” he said watching her bag her own groceries.

So she went to work there, not for the money - she had plenty of money - but to meet people.

That is how I came to know Toba. It was a Friday afternoon and I was running through the store with a challah and a toddler and rotisserie chicken and apples. Toba, a petite, sparky lady, bagged my groceries, and tossed in a comment or two about being Jewish and the joy she remembered of sharing Shabbat with her toddlers.

That day forward I always picked Toba’s check-out line. Our conversations were short, sweet, engaging. Occasionally she would call me, perhaps summon me, to go out for coffee at Vic's (later Qs,) which I always did. I’m not claiming her as a close friend –  and that is important to know - but we had tender moments through the years.

Three weeks ago, her son Jeff called me, “Toba is dying and she is asking for you.”

I have spent much of the last month by her bedside. I told her stories  – she loved my stories – and she would share bits of Toba wisdom. Were I to distill them to their essence they would read something like, “Never judge someone by their title,” and “Collect people, not experiences,” and  “Always have something baking in the oven and the front door open to whomever needs an open door,” and "Never under estimate the deliciousness of the simple doughnut," and “Eat dessert first.”

I have walked many people toward their death, but never before have I been with someone who was so clear-headed as she approached her final days.

One day she said, “I’m getting tired now so you hold my hand and I’ll go to sleep.”  She fell asleep quickly and we sat that way for long time, me holding her hand listening to her breathe. The thing -- as you know -- about holding someone’s hand is that if you are holding theirs it means they are also holding yours. Until they are not.

One day about a week before she died, her four (adult) children and I were sitting in her bedroom  and I said, “Toba, I need you to know that you changed what I believe about  God.”  She looked surprised, pleased, curious.

I continued, “I used to believe what Martin Buber taught, that God is found in what he called I-Thou relationships, relationships in which you connect with the essence of someone, when you know them deeply and encounter them at the deepest level.  But now I realize, that is simply humanity.  Those are the relationships we as humans seek out naturally.”

I continued, “But God, God I believe is experienced in the opposite – in interactions in which we don’t really know the other person, what Buber wrote off as I-It relationships. When we engage with kindness in the more superficial, even transactional relationships with the person who bags your groceries, or pours your coffee or does your taxes and come out feeling tapped into the connection of all being. That  feeling of connection is God. Buber had it reversed.”

Toba smiled, “That’s why you’re my Rabbi,”  she said, and squeezed my hand.

Toba’s funeral was immense. The number of people who knew Toba and came out to celebrate her and say good-bye, stunned me. She knew people from all walks of life.
It was a windy day out in the graveyard in North Boulder and we huddled together both to stay warm and to seek comfort.  I cried my way through the eulogy, but no one minded.

Toba’s been gone a few weeks now and I think of her, and her smile, and the feeling of her hand in mine. Her son has gone back east and we text now and then. I try to focus, as Toba instructed me to, on finding meaning in the little things and of course on some days now, I eat dessert first.

Rabbi Jamie Korngold, Adventure Rabbi

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Photos from Passover in Moab

Enjoy these photos from Passover in Moab!
Here's a few, but more are posted here:

Sunday, October 25, 2015

This week I attended the Conversation

This week I attended the Conversation, a conference in Baltimore Maryland hosted by the Jewish Week.

Each year 54 Jewish thought leaders from a variety of fields including high tech, media, law, entertainment, politics and education are invited to gather for three days of conversation to talk about the future of Jewish life in this country and explore what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century.

This was an opportunity for me to hang out with people I would never run into on the trails behind Boulder.

So what did I learn? These were my take-aways:

  1. The older generation remains concerned about questions such as intermarriage, the decline of synagogue membership and the decline in belief in God. 
  2. The younger generation has long since moved passed those questions and considers them to be irrelevant.
  3. The younger generation creates innovative expressions of Judaism, many of which the older generations considers inauthentic.
  4. The older generation’s opinion on these expressions may not matter because many in the younger generation have already been wildly successful financially so if they put their money towards Jewish programming, we may not need traditional funders.
  5. The people with their hands on the levers of power make their decisions of whom to fund and promote whimsically. The Jewish world is not a meritocracy. The organizations and rabbis who are funded and promoted may not be the best ones, but they are the one’s with connections to the power towers. 
  6. The best route for those on the outside is to work hard and strive but to be content and appreciative of what we have and who we are. 
  7. There are so many rational reasons to be pessimistic about the future of Judaism in America that we may be better off not dwelling on them and focusing on what is good and fun and working.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Adventure Rabbi - Aug 28 Sermon - Honor Thy Father and Mother

Watch Rabbi Jamie Korngold discuss the commandment, "Honor thy father and mother," during the Adventure Rabbi Shabbat service on top of Flagstaff mountain, above Boulder, Colorado.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Slow Down Summer - Tips from Rabbi Jamie Korngold

Do you ever feel that summer is going to quickly?
Do you ever worry that September will arrive before you have really truly felt like you had time for summer?

If so, here are some tips to make the most of summer, even if you have limited time:
1. Brainstorm.
First make a list of your favorite quintessential summer activities. Add some highlight activities, for example things you might only do once a summer, such as taking a backpack trip, climbing a 14er or going to an outdoor concert. Write others on your list that are foundational activities, things that sing the essence of summer to you and that you can do easily like eat corn on the cob, soak your feet in an icy stream or read a novel.
(See more ideas below. )

2. Schedule.
Now, schedule time on your calendar for some of the activities you listed. Perhaps you only have time for one this summer. One is better than none! But maybe this is the summer when each Shabbat you make time for one favorite summer activity. Imagine how special Shabbat might become to you if it was linked to your favorite summer activities. Be realistic but get those activities scheduled!

3. Get up early or stay out late.
The long days of summer are a here. There is a unique world on the trails and neighborhoods early in the morning and late at night. Don’t miss out on the outlier times of day, when the sky boasts dramatic colors and the roads and trails are quiet. Make sure, at least once this summer, to go for an early morning or evening bike ride, hike, dog-walk, run, paddle, walk through your neighborhood etc.

4. Summer Foods.
Even if your life is too busy for vacation this summer or you have an injury preventing you from hiking, everyone eats. It’s easy to fall into a rut and eat the same food year-round. Make sure you are infusing your diet with the delectable summer treats like peaches, watermelon, tomatoes and fresh greens.  Here is a link to my favorite peach and blueberry dessert recipe>> 
5. Attitude.
When someone asks how your summer is going, avoid comments such as, “Busy!" or, "Too fast!” Remember, life is not a contest in which the busiest person wins, especially in the summer. 

Comments like these reinforce negative feelings of summer being fleeting. Rather, try out answers that focus on the positive parts of your summer, even if you are not doing anything big and exciting. When someone asks how your summer is going try, “Great! I love eating my breakfast on the deck; its such a calm way to start my day.” Or “Great, I stopped at a kid’s lemonade stand yesterday.” Or, "The clouds this summer have been so incredible. I`m really enjoying watching them when I drive home from work."
You may also want to focus on one thing you have done or will do such as, “What a great summer. I’m looking forward to some hikes I have planned.”

6. Wildflowers.
The wildflowers in Colorado are extraordinary this year because of all the rain. Down in Crested Butte the locals report seeing flowers that have not blossomed in years. But even here in Boulder, the flowers are extraordinary. Walk along the Mesa Trail right now and you will be treated to expansive fields filled with purple Wild Bergamot.
7. Find some water.
The water has done wonders for the wildflowers; imagine what it will do for you! Get in the water, or on the water, or next to the water. Hike by waterfalls, swim in a lake, wade in a river, boat on a reservoir, boogie board in the ocean. Ah water.

8. Eat outside.
Grill. Have friends over for a beer. Sit on your stoop and eat ice cream. Sometimes just a small shift in your routine such as where you cook or eat meals can make a lasting impact on how you feel about your summer experience.

9. Learn for next year.
Consider booking next year’s vacation now, so you have more choice about when to take off.  Some people find that if they vacation early in the summer, the relaxation effects their entire summer.
10. Celebrate Shabbat with the Adventure Rabbi community.
We will be on Flagstaff this Friday July 20, 2015 for a relaxing and joyous Shabbat service 6-7 pm followed by a picnic. More>>
Our summer Shabbat hikes have also been delightful this summer and there is one Sat Aug 8  Shabbat Hike for families w/ kids More>>

Nothing says summer like Shabbat outdoors, surrounded by old friends and potential new ones, while looking out at the great views over Boulder, Colorado.
Here is a checklist of great summer activities to get you started:
  • Go on a longer than usual hike/ bike/ run/ swim
  • Attend an outdoor concert
  • Have a picnic
  • Draw on the sidewalk with chalk
  • Bake something with peaches
  • Have friends over for dinner
  • Spit watermelon seeds
  • Run through a sprinkler
  • Camp
  • Backpack
  • Eat an ice cream cone
  • Pick (i.e. harvest) something from a garden or farm
  • Read a novel
  • Sit under a tree and read a book
  • Do nothing
  • Attend an Adventure Rabbi Shabbat service or hike
I hope these tips help you soak in summer! Let me know how it goes or what ideas you have. You can reach me here >>

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What my Kids Know about Passover

Jodie Books just did a quick blog post about the Seder in the Desert book, by Jamie Korngold, photos by Jeff Finkelstein:

One day  my husband Jeff and I were playing the word association game with our children. You know the one: I say “birthday,” then you say “party,” then the next person says “cake,”the next person says “presents” until we run out of things to say and move to the next subject.

“Passover,” started my husband Jeff.

“Seder plate,” said Sadie.

“Frogs,” said Ori.

“Camping,’ said Sadie

“Hiking to the arch,”,said Ori.

Jeff and I looked at each other and laughed. What a wonderful, unique understanding of Passover we have created for our children.
Read more: