Rabbi Jamie Korngold's books for children include Sadie's Sukkah Breakfast, Sadie and the Big Mountain, and, most recently, Sadie's Almost Marvelous Menorah. She also has written books for adults, including God in the Wilderness and The God Upgrade. She is the founder, senior rabbi, and lead guide of the Adventure Rabbi Program, based in Boulder, Colorado, and Lake Tahoe, California.
Q: What exactly is the Adventure Rabbi program, and how does it compare to a more traditional approach?
A: I am called the Adventure Rabbi because I explore the frontiers of religions. Sometimes this is a physical adventure, such as on Rosh Hashanah when we hike out to our service site to see how being outside amplifies our Jewish experience.
Sometimes it's a intellectual adventure, such as was the case in my second book, The God Upgrade, where I asked controversial questions about the nature of God and challenged readers to upgrade their God concept so it is compatible with the world as we experience it.
Sometimes it’s an institutional adventure, as is the case with our cutting-edge synagogue. We explore concepts like "what does it mean to be a member?" And "what does Bar or Bat Mitzvah really need to learn to be ready to face their turbulent teenage years?"
Our Bar and Bat Mitzvah programs attract students all over the world who can either study with us via Skype or in person at one of our two bases in Boulder, Colorado, and Lake Tahoe, California. In our in-person classes we teach them about responsibility by climbing a mountain peak, about God by learning to change a tire on a car, how to make challah and matzah ball soup and so on.
Q: You've written for adults and for children. Do you have a preference?
A: I love writing both adults’ and children's books. The publishing world is a little turbulent currently and I have a great relationship with my publisher at Kar-Ben so I have chosen to write primarily for [children]. At some point I may write more adult non-fiction.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your newest book, Sadie's Almost Marvelous Menorah?
A: Sadie's Almost Marvelous Menorah is a true story that happened to me when I was in nursery school. My parents used to tell the story every year at Chanukah. My mom was a preschool teacher so she would tell it in her classrooms and at our synagogue. It was nice to write a story in which my mom is the hero!
At my house we still use the Super Shammus I made when I was a child.
Q: What is the collaboration process like with illustrator Julie Fortenberry on your books about Sadie?
A: Julie and I have a very special relationship. I am so grateful for her. Our publisher paired us and [we] are fortunate to have a great partnership. Her daughter Annie even babysat for my kids, Sadie and Ori, when she was in Boulder this year! Julie is very much autonomous to create from her heart, but she does use photos of Sadie, my parents, and Sadie and Ori's stuffed animals.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: My editor and I are working on two stories which are due out in 2015. One is a Sadie book and the other is a new series we are just starting on.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I have three books coming out next year. Sadie’s Lag Ba'Omer Mystery is an engaging tale about Sadie and Ori's effort to uncover what Lag Ba'Omer is. [Another book featuring Sadie and Ori] is about Ori's worries about going to camp for the first time. And finally Seder in the Desert is a beautiful book featuring Jeff Finkelstein's photography, which tells the story of our Passover trek in the desert.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. This interview was conducted in conjunction with The Lessans Family Annual Book Festival at The JCC of Greater Washington. Rabbi Jamie Korngold will be speaking at the festival on Sunday, November 17, at 3:30pm.