Because I have an aversion to anything cold and slippery, I've never visited Colorado's famous ski slopes. But I do love mountain scenery, fresh air and a little outdoor adventure — all of which I found in abundance on a wonderful mid-summer trip to the Northern Colorado town of Boulder.
Boulder enjoys a vibe that I will simplistically summarize as "brainy-meets-hippy."
Yes, you will likely encounter folk singers and wisps of incense on the relaxed pedestrian Pearl Street Mall.
On the other hand, Boulder was ranked the No. 1 "Most Educated City in America" by Forbes in 2008, thanks, perhaps, to all those clever students and professors at the prestigious University of Colorado.
A better way to sum up Boulder may be to pass on the assessment by one of the parking valets at the St. Julien Hotel, who said how much he loved Boulder's "gentle vibe."
All Environment, All the Time
Does Boulder care about the environment? You better believe it does! This was the first city in America to tax itself in order to preserve open space, which is why you can now walk out of downtown and be on beautiful open space trails in Chautauqua Meadow within minutes.
In some ways, Boulder has a great utopian feel. This is a place where cocktail-sippers and samba dancers can happily share space with roly-poly toddlers and hula-hooping moms at a rollicking weekend Brazilian dance party in St. Julien's courtyard.
Boulder's active Jewish community also puts on an annual Jewish Festival (www.boulder jewishfestival.org), celebrating its culture, arts and cuisine. Save the date now for next year's festival on June 6.
Boulder boasts its own JCC (www.boulderjcc.org), and has several synagogues representing a wide range of Jewish practice: Reform, Conservative, Chabad, Orthodox and Jewish Renewal.
This Could Be a First!
But how many communities can say they have an "Adventure Rabbi" (www.adventurerabbi.org), who officiates at a Synagogue Without Walls, presiding over wilderness weddings and back-country mitzvot?
A former triathlete who was ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1999, Rabbi Jamie Korngold leads Shabbat skiing and hiking trips (depending on the season), and holds occasional Friday-night Shabbat services at Sunrise Amphitheater, an outdoor facility built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933-34 on top of Flagstaff Mountain, to the west of Boulder.
People come from all over to attend Korngold's Rosh Hashanah retreat, which includes hiking, biking, yoga and prayer.
Her monthly 2.5-hour Shabbat hikes include breaks along the way, where Korngold offers teachings or asks questions related to the week's Torah portion, and then asks her fellow Jewish hikers to discuss the questions with each other and share their thoughts at the next stopping point.
Korngold says she has found that the physical act of hiking together encourages deep discussions and fosters a sense of community, so much so that when the group returns to the trailhead, folks are reluctant to leave, and stand around instead exchanging e-mail addresses and phone numbers.
Why does hiking in Boulder prove so conducive to Jewish introspection and community-building for the "Adventure Rabbi" and her "congregants"?
"People here in Boulder really value the outdoors as not just an outdoor gym, but also as a place of spiritual potential," explains Korngold, who's written a book called God in the Wilderness.
For more information, see: www.Colorado.com.