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Seder in the Desert (Passover)


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About the Author

Rabbi Jamie S. Korngold received ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and is the founder and spiritual leader of the Adventure Rabbi Program. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her two daughters, Sadie and Ori. Jeff Finkelstein's images have appeared in hundreds of publications including National Geographic, USA Today and The Jerusalem Post. He lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and two daughters.


Expressive, beautiful color photography forms the visual storytelling accompaniment to this modern-day communal Seder in the desert in Moav, Utah.

'Why is this seder different from all others?' Beginning with a slightly altered question from the traditional 'Why is this night different...' readers are taken through a re-enactment of the Israelites' desert journey as participants in the Adventure Rabbi Program celebrate Passover. The program seeks to '[combine] the ancient traditions of the Jewish Seder with the inspiration of the Red Rock Desert.' Author and rabbi Korngold, spiritual leader of the program, simply and effectively demonstrates how the traditional concepts of the holiday are maintained through this unusual event, which emphasizes experiential learning. With stunning natural scenery as a backdrop, families hike, carry Seder necessities including a torah and Haggadot for children, and set a table on the sandy ground complete with the special ceremonial foods. There, they read, learn and debate the story of the Exodus, eat together, sing and dance. Before nightfall, they reverse their trip, closing with a campfire gathering. The focus of this distinctive approach is on examining how and why the Seder is celebrated rather than on retelling the familiar story.

Lovely, different and yet familiar. (author's note) (Picture book/religion. 5-8) -- Kirkus Reviews

-- "Journal"

An adventure in the beautiful desert of Moab, Utah, simulating the experience of the Israelites in the desert as they leave Egypt, is the setting for this unusual and meaningful Passover story. The text begins with a question: Why is this seder different from all other seders? The answer: 'Because this year we are celebrating Passover in the desert.' The Adventure Rabbi, Jamie Korngold, who has written four other children's books for Kar-Ben (Sadie's Sukkah Breakfast, Sadie and the Big Mountain, Sadie's Almost Marvelous Menorah, and Sadie's Lag Ba'omer Mystery), escorts families on a hike into the glorious desert. Men, women, and children band together to climb steep rocks and sandstone; they hike the arid desert till they arrive at the Colorado River to set up and celebrate their seder. All the necessary supplies are brought in the hikers' backpacks: Water, seder plate, haggadot, and of course, food. One hiker carries a Torah. Many of the traditions of the seder are integrated into their hike. The seder is spread out on a tablecloth on the ground, enhanced by the seder plate with its unique foods and matzoh. At 'Dayenu', there is dancing and music of tambourines, celebrating and appreciating all the miracles Jews have to be thankful for on Passover. The joy of the experience is palpable. This photo essay is the record of a real event. Magnificent photographs were taken by Jeff Finkelstein, a professional photographer who is married to the Adventure Rabbi. The natural beauty of the environment and rock formations enhance a child's appreciation of the blessings of nature and of God. This is a wonderful read-aloud and shared resource to illustrate a unique Passover observance. It should be noted that Halachic Orthodox guidelines are not followed. -- AJL Reviews

-- "Magazine"

In this photo-essay style picture book, a young child narrates her experience celebrat-ing Passover in the desert of Moab, Utah with the 'Adventure Rabbi' Jamie Korngold. At this non-traditional Seder, participants hike through the desert, just like the Israelites. The Seder meal is served desert style, on long stretches of fabric set on the ground along the Colorado River. Families in hiking clothes sit together with their water bottles alongside their Kiddush cups. Children are pictured with the traditional symbols of the Seder plate accompanied by typical explanations as well as some additional tidbits. For example, the reader will learn that parsley is not only a reminder of spring but as 'one of the hardiest herbs of the garden, it also recalls how strong the Jewish people had to be to survive in the desert.' The significance of Miriam's Cup is also included. A Torah is unrolled from a backpack and the story of Exodus is read aloud under the Corona Arch. Everyone dances, like Miriam, with tambourines as they sing 'Dayenu.' At the conclusion of the Seder, the group hikes back down the mountain to perform Havdalah. They then build a campfire and 'sing songs beneath a full moon and hope to celebrate Passover in the desert again.' The large, full-color photographs beautifully depict the exquisite desert scenery as well as the warmth and spirit of this unique community and are a perfect complement to the descrip-tive, yet concise, text. Seder in the Desert joins other picture books such as New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story by April Halprin Wayland (Dial, 2009), Menorah Under the Sea by Esther Susan Heller (Kar-Ben, 2009), and A Song for My Sister by Lesley Simpson (Random House, 2012) in introducing readers to contemporary, progressive communities celebrating Jewish holidays and rituals in new and creative ways. Additional photos, as well as registration information, for this annual event can be found at, but even those less adventurous will be inspired to look at the holiday in a new way. Recommended for ages 3-8. -- starred review, Jewish Book Council

-- "Website"

This is essentially an extended travel brochure for the Adventure Rabbi Program, founded by author Korngold, which sponsors seders in the Utah desert. It's told in the voice of a young participant, who works quite hard (one senses the grownup mind at work) to connect her fellow REI-equipped sojourners to their ancient ancestors: 'The sun is hot and I get thirsty.... Now I understand how important water was for the Israelites.' But armchair travelers should enjoy taking in the photos of the magnificent red rock formations (one of the famous arches plays a recurring role in the story) and seeing how modern-day Jews come together for a day of hiking, dancing, prayer, and - of course - eating. Ages 3-8. (Feb.) -- Publisher's Weekly

-- "Journal"

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