Bonai First Friday: Alternative Jewish Homelands

alaska jewish hoelandWhy Israel, necessarily? Down through the centuries, a number of proposals (made by both Jews and non-Jews, pro- and anti-Semites) have posited the establishment of a Jewish homeland in such diverse regions as Madagascar; Grand Island, New York; Uganda; Birobidzhan, Russia; Alaska; and Argentina. Dr. Adam Rovner, an associate professor at the University of Denver, has made this fascinating study a focus of his research, and will share insights and incidents with us!

This combination of davening, dining, and discussion is a hallmark of Bonai’s First Friday series, which enters its fourth stimulating season on October 4. The night begins with Kabbalat Shabbat Services begin at 6 pm, followed by a catered dinner at 7 pm. The featured speaker then holds forth on the topic at hand.

The idea of a national home for Jews not in Palestine is as old as the Diaspora itself, leading to fanciful proposals that range from intriguing to appalling. The concept even gave Michael Chabon an alternative-history setting for his 2007 mystery novel “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.” As Dr. Rovner will show us, sometimes Zion has wandered as freely as the Jews themselves.

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Dr. Rovner completed his undergraduate studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He lived in Israel for several years and became a naturalized citizen of that country. During his time in Israel he milked cows on a kibbutz, waited tables and managed an Italian restaurant in Jerusalem, served in the military as an educator and administrator, and completed his M.A. in comparative literature at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He later received his Ph.D. in comparative literature from Indiana University, where he further developed his expertise in Holocaust literature, Hebrew literature, and humor studies.

Reservations for the dinners and speakers must be made in advance to Dinner is $15 per adult, $12 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.

And don’t forget Bonai’s special end-of-month combination of First Friday and Scholar-in-Residence, as we welcome Rabbi Gershom Sizomu from Uganda to Boulder! Rabbi Sizomu is the spiritual leader of the Abayudaya Community in Uganda.

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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 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 reduced their numbers to 300; however, today the group is 2,000 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.

On the evening of Friday, Oct. 25, Rabbi Sizomu will lead an African-style Kabbalat Shabbat, followed by a dinner at which Rabbi will tell us his story. On Saturday, Oct. 26, Rabbi Sizomu will give the sermon at services – and be sure to attend that evening at 7:30, 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!

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

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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