For years Rabbi Jamie Korngold, known as the Adventure Rabbi, has led a team of educators who offer online and in-person Hebrew lessons. But now Rabbi Jamie is also teaching Hebrew. We sat down to ask her why.
BJN: “Rabbi Jamie, we’re used to hearing about you leading hikes and camping trips. Now you are teaching Hebrew?”
RABBI JAMIE: “That’s right. With COVID-19, although I am still hiking myself, I can’t take the kids out, well other people’s kids anyway, so I’ve switched gears so that I still get to teach them.”
BJN: “Why Hebrew? Why not something else?”
RABBI JAMIE: “Well, I really like working with middle school age kids and they need Hebrew lessons for their Bar and Bat Mitzvah process. And call me crazy, but I think it’s awesome to get to hang out with them. Now that they can study with me during the school day, I have a lot more hours that work for them.”
BJN: “Did you just say you enjoy middle schoolers?”
RABBI JAMIE: “I do! They are real and they are figuring out who they want to be in the world. I hope I can teach them some useful skills and maybe I can be a role model for them.”
BJN: “So what are you hoping to teach them besides the difference between shva nach, shva na, and flying shva? (See, I remember my 5th grade Hebrew lessons.)”
RABBI JAMIE: “Well I guess the biggest thing right now is to help them focus on the positive. My personal theme during COVID is to be tenaciously optimistic and relentlessly positive. It’s so easy to give in to despair and I just know for myself if I go there, I won’t be able to pull out of it. So, I’m just not going there. I try every day to find something I can feel good about. I’m trying to teach and model that same thing to my kids.”
BJN: But these are tragic and terrible times…
RABBI JAMIE: Of course they are. But we each have a threshold for how much disappointment we can handle. And we don’t have to dwell in the negative. I know for myself I can’t. I just can’t handle it. And these kids are kids. They have even fewer coping mechanisms, although sadly with all the school shootings and fears about climate change they have evolved to be very resilient, more than I expected, so maybe I am wrong about their capacity, but I don’t think so. I mean, turning toward the good doesn’t mean we can’t be sad about what we have lost, or mad, or scared. It just means we don’t have to stay in that place 24/7.”
BJN: Wow, you are teaching a lot more than dageshes.
RABBI JAMIE: I like to think so. In fact, maybe Hebrew is the least important part. I’m trying to give the kids an oasis of saneness in a world that has turned upside down. I’m trying to give them a skill they can accomplish so that when this all ends, they can feel like they accomplished something useful during their quarantine. And of course, I’m trying to give them another adult who cares about them
BJN: It’s very uplifting to hear this. Thank you. So, if a parent wants their student to sign up with you, what is the nitty-gritty?
RABBI JAMIE: I teach Mondays- Wednesday in 30-minute increments. They can read more at the Adventure Rabbi website>>
BJN: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, and be safe.
RABBI JAMIE: You too. Thank you!