African Rabbi a Special Bonai Scholar-in-Residence

African Rabbi a Special Bonai Scholar-in-Residence

abayudayaThousands of miles from Jerusalem, in the middle of the African bush, nearly 100 years ago, a native community armed only with the words of the Five Books of Moses turned wholeheartedly to Judaism.

Now the story of their remarkable perseverance, and the richness their experience has contributed to the tribe of Israel, can be heard and felt at a very special Scholar-in-Residence weekend at Congregation Bonai Shalom.

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Rabbi Gershom Sizomu

On October 25 and 26, the congregation welcomes Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, the spiritual leader of the Abayudaya Community in Uganda, to Boulder.

The rabbi is the first native-born black rabbi in sub-Saharan Africa, where he ministers to the needs of the Abayudaya community of eastern Uganda. This Jewish community of 3,000 was established single-handedly through the inspiration of local leader Semei Kakungulu in 1919 and thrived, despite being visited by only two Jews from the outside between that time and 1962. The persecutions of Idi Amin between 1971 and 1979 reduced their numbers to 300; however, today the group is 1,000 strong.

Learn from Rabbi how this congregation, cut off from the rest of the world, initiated and maintained its Jewish faith. This living cultural exchange will give both him and us a chance to share our differences and our commonalities.

A distinct highlight of the Abayudaya community’s practice is its remarkable “homegrown” musical settings for services, psalms, and celebrations. African melodies both compellingly rhythmic and gently beautiful cast the words of worship into new patterns of understanding.

These songs have been released on no fewer than four recordings to date, and Rabbi will share this deeply moving tradition with attendees as well – a Havdalah concert takes place at the end of Shabbat on October 26.

On the evening of Friday, October 25, Rabbi Sizomu will lead an African-style Kabbalat Shabbat, followed by a dinner at which Rabbi will tell us his story. On Saturday, October 26, Rabbi Sizomu will give the sermon at services – and be sure to attend that evening at 7:30 pm, when we will all gather for a special Havdalah concert. We are so lucky to enjoy this rare visit — be sure to welcome him to our shul!

Dinner is $18 per adult, $15 per child (under 13 years old), $50 maximum per family. If you would like wine with your dinner, it is BYOB. (Kosher only. Please label your wine with your name unless you plan to share.)

Please note the congregation’s temporary relocation — for the time being, all Friday night and Shabbat morning services, including all our children’s and family programming, as well as 6th and 7th grade Hebrew School, will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 5001 Pennsylvania Ave., Boulder.

For tickets and further information regarding these upcoming events, please contact the Bonai office at or 303-442-6605.

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About Brad Weismann

This writer and editor returned to the place where he grew up after years as a wandering comedian. It's beautiful here. In addition to serving as administrative manager at Congregation Bonai Shalom, he has served in a variety of capacities for Boulder International Film Festival since its inception. His extensive writing portfolio includes stories written on topics ranging from grand opera to midget wrestling, for magazines, newpapers and Web sites including Film International, Boulder Magazine, Movie Habit, Backstage, Muso, 5280, EnCompass, Senses of Cinema, Boulder Jewish News and, even, somehow, Philly Sports Faithful. Check out his work at, and

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