“we access God through awe, by going to natural places, like the high peaks, which take us beyond the confines of words to that purely emotional and spiritual place that allows us to feel connected to something larger than ourselves.”
An avid skier, Rabbi Korngold, who is 39, started off as a mountain guide and worked for Outward Bound. After meeting many young Jews who passed up temple for skiing, she wanted a ministry that used the wilderness. Participants paid $125, plus board, to join her on a two-day retreat. “I take the experience outdoors and show it through a Jewish lens,” she says.
Rabbi Korngold insists she isn’t watering down Judaism or stripping it of its deepest meanings. “Our religion was created in the wilderness. God gave us the Torah on the mountain,” she says. “Unless Judaism is willing to meet them out there, they are not coming home to Judaism.” It worked for Noah Finkelstein, a 37-year-old physics professor who visited several temples and said traditional synagogues made him feel he had to fit into someone else’s religion.
The leaders of such events know their work can be seen as flaky and faddish. But they often attract divided Jewish families, in which spouses can’t agree on which kind of synagogue to join, and families who have rejected the religion but want kin.