Taking Religion Outside
Jamie Korngold, rabbi, The Adventure Rabbi Program, adventurerabbi.org
Although the name sounds like something from an Onion news story, Boulder’s Adventure Rabbi Program has been using outdoor recreation as a tool for teaching Jewish concepts with great success for more than 10 years. “Most people who come to religion are looking for a community to be part of,” says Rabbi Jamie Korngold, who founded the organization, “but in traditional synagogues that’s not always easy.” Korngold has found that monthly Shabbat services in the form of day hikes in the Flatirons or skiing at Copper Mountain, and trips to Moab to celebrate Passover, have a way of offering the feeling of community that a Friday service at temple may not. “Grabbing someone’s hand so they can pull you up over a boulder is a more tangible, real-life way of connecting to another person,” she says.
But that’s not the only reason Korngold founded her nonconforming synagogue in the shadow of the Flatirons. People who live here often seek to be enveloped by raw, unadulterated nature. Korngold gets that—and draws on it. “Being in the outdoors helps people connect to something larger than themselves,” she says. “It can make them feel small but also a part of something larger.” Korngold adds that the sense of awe she sees people experience on a moonlit hike is the same kind of awe that people can experience with religion, if someone teaches them how to translate that sentiment.
Korngold wants to help Jews and their families connect—and sometimes reconnect—with a religion that, according to studies, is only reaching about 30 percent of its potential following. And she wants to do it in a way that makes people love being Jewish. So far, she’s done that for nearly 5,000 Adventure Rabbi participants each year. “The echo of their outdoor experiences with Adventure Rabbi can follow them back to their daily lives,” she says, “and, maybe, create a better connection with Judaism.”
A Colorado-based website brings belief to your screen.
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 80 million Americans who are religiously active are Internet users. And according to Leo Brunnick, cofounder of Denver-based Patheos.com, nearly 2 million of those Americans visit his site every 30 days. That makes Patheos.com the largest multifaith site on the Web.
Launched in May 2009, Patheos.com aims to be to faith what ESPN.com is to sports. The site caters to seemingly everyone: atheists, Buddhists, Catholics, evangelicals, Hindus, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, pagans, and progressive Christians. But Brunnick and Co. make it clear that Patheos.com is not an interfaith site. “We are a marketplace of ideas,” Brunnick says. “There may be people on our site who will say, ‘As a Christian, I believe atheists are going to hell’ but we do moderate the site in a way that we avoid people directly telling each other to go to hell.”
Brunnick and his staff also ensure Patheos.com teems with well-written columns, online symposia, and a library of world religions. And at six million page views a month and growing, Patheos.com is closing in on the competition. This year, the site is poised to overtake Beliefnet.com and Christianpost.com to become the largest religion media site.