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Rabbi Booth-Nadav to engage in ‘out-of-the box’ outreach

Rabbi Stephen Booth-NadavBy Lee Nisson

Rabbi Stephen Booth-Nadav is no longer the rabbi of B’nai Havurah, but he is staying in Denver to take on a number of other ambitious projects.

He will stay with the congregation for another six months for lifecycle events and help the congregation through its transitional stage, while he transitions to Adventure Rabbi and Aytz Chaim/Tree of Life.

Rabbi Booth-Nadav came to Denver 11 years ago to become the rabbi of Bnai Havurah: The Colorado Jewish Reconstuctionist Federation, a chavurah-based commun-ity of nearly 20 chavurot.

When he graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, he was drawn to one of the oldest chavurah-based communities in the country, which had its beginnings in the 1960’s.

At Bnai Havurah, he wanted to fashion a community with high involvement without being fully dependant upon a rabbi: a community where the congregants became their own responsible, knowledgeable leaders.

“The future of the Jewish people is not dependant on practicing observant rabbis, but on knowledgeable Jews involved in a community,” he says.

Rabbi Booth-Nadav looks back warmly on his time as the rabbi of a congregation where he says he helped create a strong core of leaders.

He was so confident in the members of his congregation that when he went on an extended sabbatical, B’nai Havurah led its own services and took care of its religious needs.

Even more, he is satisfied with the involvement in people’s lives that he enjoyed at hundreds of lifecycle events. This was his “greatest blessing,” the thing he will miss most, he says.

Although Rabbi Booth-Nadav will be on retainer at Bnai Havurah for another six months with limited rabbinic duties, his focus will be on the new organizations in which he is becoming involved.

Rabbi Booth-Nadav has maintained a seven-year relationship with Rabbi Jamie Korngold, creator of Adventure Rabbi, and has been taken on as a rabbinic staff member.

Adventure Rabbi aspires to touch unaffiliated Jews in Colorado by helping them connect a love of nature with Judaism.

It is a new model of a “synagogue without walls,” and he is very happy to be a part of it.

Rabbi Booth-Nadav recalls a time he spent with a group of rabbis and native spiritual leaders on a Navajo reservation.  He talks warmly about the activities and prayer services he participated in there:

“I thought this is fabulous, I am outdoors, in nature, doing Jewish, my favorite things!”

He also is starting an organization called Aytz Chaim/Tree of Life. Its motto is “deepening roots, growing branches.”

The organization will focus on deepening Jews’ connections to their spiritual roots through an interfaith dialogue and strengthening Jews’ traditions in “out of the box” ways.

He is repeating his successful Twinning program, a Jewish and Muslim dialogue in which both sides denounce anti-Semitism in Muslim communities and the demonizing of the Muslim faith.

Through these interfaith or, as he likes to say, “multi-faith” dialogues, Rabbi Booth-Nadav believes that people can come together and gain a deeper and greater connection to their own spiritual and religious roots.

Rabbi Booth-Nadav is also a long distance rabbi for a congregation in Boca Raton, Fla., where he will lead the High Holidays this year.

He will continue as a part of the religious advisory committee at DU and has received a grant for “Adventures of the Spirit: Jewish Meditation,” a new Jewish meditation group he will start in the fall.

“I feel some sadness at the loss of the relationships I have had for the past 11 years, but at the same time I am excited about deepening roots in out of the box ways for Jews, Adventure Rabbi and other multi-faith things,” he says.

“I am very excited about the possibilities for me.”




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