Mercer Island rabbi offers up Judaism’s answers on dreams, astrology, demons and ghosts

Special to the Reporter

Paranormal beliefs are rising fast. In 2016, 46 percent of Americans reported believing in ghosts, according to Chapman University. That figure has reached 57 percent, and since the pandemic, one in five Americans say they’ve personally met a ghost. And it’s not just ghosts. Topics like astrology, dream interpretation and psychic abilities are rapidly becoming mainstream.

Although the resurgence of public interest in the paranormal is new, Rabbi Nissan Kornfeld of Chabad Mercer Island says we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Starting May 1, he’s leading a four-week course from the Jewish Learning Institute titled “Jewpernatural” that unearths the Jewish perspective on dreams, astrology, spirits and other enduring mysteries.

“The Jewish tradition has probed these issues for three millennia,” he says. “These are legitimate questions that deserve meaningful and satisfying answers.”

For some, alternative beliefs provide comfort amid lonely and uncertain times. In one incident reported by Teen Vogue, Chicago resident Emily Jacobs said the ghost in her apartment “brings her comfort.” “Even in the loneliest of times during the pandemic, especially living alone, I have a friend who checks in on me,” she said. “Jewpernatural” takes this into account.

Kornfeld says the new course will address the anxiety driving interest in the paranormal. “We won’t get bogged down in the spooky details,” he says, “and we can’t claim to provide absolute certainty. But we will discuss how we can find comfort and refocus our energy on what matters most.”

The trend toward the paranormal encompasses a broad spectrum of beliefs, including jinxes, demons, spirits, communicating with the deceased and astrology. To satisfy this curiosity, “Jewpernatural” addresses everything from the role of angels and the efficacy of the “evil eye” to whether the stars have much to say about your future.

“We’re tackling a wide spectrum of ideas,” Kornfeld says, “but after preparing the materials, I’m confident we’ll be able to offer a thoughtful, satisfying and relevant perspective rooted in authentic Jewish thought.”

This course is being offered for both online and in-person attendees. Register online at