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Meet Melanie Gruenwald and David Sanders of Kabbalah Experience in Denver

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melanie Gruenwald and David Sanders.

Melanie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
As a non-profit professional and mother to three small children, I did not take the time to engage in learning for my own personal and spiritual growth.

In the winter of 2016, everything changed. My 11-year old son, Koby, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an incurable brain tumor. I left my job to care for him full-time and focus on his rehabilitation and cancer treatment. In the fall of 2016, Koby was well enough to return to school part-time. He loved Jewish learning and study, and we decided to take classes together at Kabbalah Experience (KE).

KE classes became part of our routine- and a wonderful way to connect outside of PT, OT, speech therapy, and cancer treatment.

In the fall of 2017, Koby’s health declined, and he passed away in January 2018 at the age of 13.

My purpose in caring for him had ended. I continued to show up for KE classes and connections. Koby’s spirit was very much part of my KE experience, and I felt energized and my spirit was lighter when I was there.

Dr. David Sanders, the founder of Kabbalah Experience, invited me to teach for the school. As he mentored me in the KE curriculum, we talked about the organization, its challenges, and its growth. At some point, he asked if I would be interested in becoming the Executive Director.

At the time, David had been a sole practitioner at Kabbalah Experience for 13 years, while running a psychology practice. He wanted to expand the reach of Transformative Kabbalah to a wider audience through self study— expand streaming classes, asynchronous study, blogs and books. To transition KE to a new Executive Director, would give him the time and ability to do this.

I became the Executive Director of the organization in July of 2019, and David took on the role of Spiritual Director. He and I have developed a wonderful partnership, sustaining, and leading the organization together over the past year.

David, Rabbi Jamie Arnold, and I are the core faculty for the organization, and we have been thrilled to welcome adjunct faculty and students who are spiritual seekers- of all faiths and backgrounds- from around the state and the world.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Kabbalah Experience is a small non-profit organization with three employees.

The challenges of being a small organization, also ride with the opportunities. We have a committed Board of Directors, who help to guide and support our organization. Our size and lay leadership allow us to position ourselves as a nimble organization that can be responsive to the times.

Our organization depends on tuition, grants, events, and individual donors. Tuition only covers 30% of our revenue. During challenging economic times, such as we are going through now, there is a greater concern for KE’s projected support.

We are always striving to expand our student base. We are committed to increasing diversity through community engagement.

Please tell us about Kabbalah Experience.
Kabbalah Experience is a center for adult spiritual education.

We offer live-study classes, in person (in non-COVID times), and on ZOOM videoconference. KE also offers self-study/ asynchronous classes for students to learn on their own schedules.

Kabbalah is the study of Jewish mystical tradition. KE approaches “kabbalah” as a study of parallels- between seen and unseen reality, the physical and spiritual, the finite and the infinite. We challenge our students to live with greater awareness of what is going on inside and around them, in order to live more connected, intentional, and meaningful lives.

Kabbalah is sometimes perceived as an esoteric tradition, and somewhat ‘dangerous’ area of study- some people believe you have to be a certain gender, age, and of a certain level of Jewish study and learning to even approach kabbalah. Kabbalah Experience brings it down to earth, making kabbalah an accessible and pragmatic spiritual practice.

In addition to teaching the principles of kabbalah, KE is a center where we seek to build connections and community between students of diverse experiences and backgrounds.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
In reviewing the ‘story of the organization’ before I came on board- it feels that KE was very grass-roots and organic in growth. Growth was slow due to the limitations of having only one lead professional.

Now that we have the leadership team of David and Melanie and an expanded Board of Directors, we are positioned to grow strategically and intentionally.

Pricing:

  • Annual Membership $50 (gives 15% discount on classes and products)
  • Semester-long classes $325 for guests/ 15% off for members
  • Pay as You Can for new members in Foundations (Level 1) courses
  • Scholarships available

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photo of David and Melanie, by Larry Hankin, IJN

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