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University of Colorado Boulder Program in Jewish Studies
Night in the Desert - Photo by Devin Gabhart

My 105 Degree Sweaty Passover

Recently I attended Wilderness Torah’s “Passover in the Desert” event. Wilderness Torah is an organization out of Berkeley, CA specializing in land based Jewish rituals and events. We camped in Panamint, CA, on the border of Death Valley, 10 miles from any recognizable form of civilization. 

This trip taught me more than anything else, the importance of my Boulder community, and in particular Congregation Nevei Kodesh. First some hot details.

We were 225 wandering Jews camping for 4 days in 105-degree heat, celebrating Passover in a very Jewish Renewal style.  Most attendees were 27-35 year old pretty radical Berkeley/Oakland and Los Angeles folks who were educated, creative, confident, and really trying to make this world a better place. This community could not have been warmer, inviting, open and friendly.  Everybody was hugging even with the heat.  Trans, bi, cisgender, non-binary, etc.  We had many educational sessions, both Jewish and secular topics.

Photo by Devin Gabhart

Imagine singing and dancing to “Olam Chesed Yibaneh”, “Halleluya”, and many familiar Kabbalat Shabbat songs.  I mean really dancing to drums, guitars and other instruments I didn’t even recognize.  Hot, sweaty, wild and connecting with the Divine while staring at major desert mountains.  For this recently transplanted New Yorker, it was mind blowing.  The house was rock’n more than a NYC nightclub.        

Back to community.  I quickly came to realize I would have died in the desert if it not for the Wilderness Torah community. I could not have survived on my own; nobody could have. This fact really scared me as I never thought I really needed anyone else in this world. However, the community fed me, provided porta potties, and reminded me so many times to keep drinking water.

I give gratitude to Rabbi Zelig Golden, the Executive Director of Wilderness Torah and his band of wild Jews, for helping me survive. Then I realized how much I needed my Boulder community.  Maybe not so much on a physical “do or die” level, but certainly on an emotional and spiritual one.  Having moved here only knowing a handful of people, I now understand how much I need my community to make friends, share hardships and help me feel less alone.  I need Jewish Renewal and love Congregation Nevei Kodesh, my second home.  I thought I could do it all myself.  I’m happily wrong.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Prep

About Michael Mittleman

Michael Mittleman moved to Boulder in November 2018 for his next adventure. He is happy to share more, (917) 952-3361 or mmittleman5@gmail.com.

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