top of page



"Few books that claim the power to radically change the reader's worldview deliver on that promise. This informed investigation of several unexplored avenues of Jewish history actually does it. By examining six seldom-discussed attempts to settle a Jewish state outside of Israel, Rovner shows how the world might have looked had any of these plans come to fruition. [...] Rovner writes clearly and precisely, providing a solid historical and geographical context, which he intersperses with personal narratives from his own travels that offer more intimate looks at the landscape and cultures of these countries. [...] A conceptually challenging intellectual history of the global search for a Jewish homeland." 

Kirkus Reviews


"I am not sure if Rovner began his eye-opening study with the intention of making the conflict between the [...] Zionists and Territorialists emblematic of Israel's current divisions, but that is what he has done."

—Clive Sinclair, Times Literary Supplement (UK)

"Adam Rovner for the first time systematically writes about the collective attempts of territorialists to find a Jewish home [...] in this thoroughly-researched and well-written account [...] essential reading for anyone interested in the history of Zionism..."

—Michael Brenner, Israel Studies Review


"[I]t is entrancing to read about the idealists and adventurers who prowled through chanceries and jungles in their efforts to outdo Theodor Herzl and his successors [...] Rovner follows in the[ir] footsteps (quite literally, with a lot of zest and a friend who took plenty of pictures) [...] as they roamed large parts of Africa, Latin America, and Australia in search of a territory that would serve their purposes..."

 — Alan Arkush, Jewish Review of Books

"In the Shadow of Zion [...] provides a colorful history of the Territorialist movement from the 1820s until after World War II [...] there is much that both Israel and Diaspora Jewry can learn from Territorialism, starting with the idea that there is more than one approach to finding refuge."

— Ezra Glinter, Boston Review

"Rovner raises the specter of an alternate Jewish history--one that might not have resulted in the deaths of millions of Jews in the Holocaust. This haunting question of what might have been lingers into the present as Rovner draws on the world's disdain for 'waves of immigrants' [...] in Europe and America, bringing resonances of the historical past into the present."

— Rachel Harris, Jewish History

"Rovner's book is a tour de force in terms of its meticulous research, its narrative arc, and its ability to be simultaneously substantive and entertaining. [...] Rovner's well-conceived and beautifully written book [...makes] a significant contribution to our evolving understanding of Jews and Judaism in modernity."

— Shaul Magid, Journal of the Society for Contemporary Thought and the Islamicate World

"In his penetrating analysis and accompanying travelogue [...Rovner...] describes six failed efforts to settle Jews outside of Israel and visits the countries where their supposed settlement was expected to take place. [...] Traveling along all those places that could have provided at least a partial answer to the Jewish predicament, Rovner offers us a beautiful travelogue..."

— Alexander Zvielli, Jerusalem Post

"[N]o one before Rovner has examined these alternative Zions with such skill, enthusiasm, and panache. [...] Meticulously researched [...] the book fuses diplomatic history and cultural studies with travel reportage: Rovner travelled to all these regions, and he laces his historical analyses with impressionistic accounts of these six territories as they appear today. [...] His ability to sail from one cultural context to another without muddying the narrative’s water is truly impressive."

— Eitan Bar-Yosef, AJS Review

"Rovner makes a valuable contribution [...] In well-crafted chapters, Rovner tells the story of the efforts to find a Jewish home..."

—J. Fischel, CHOICE (Association of College and Research Libraries)

"[A] great addition [...] for the reader interested in a broad reflection on the development of the Zionist idea."

—Sanford R. SilverburgAssociation of Jewish Libraries Reviews

"[T]hese largely forgotten stories, in Rovner's telling, are compelling ones. [...] I applaud Rovner's act of restoring such endeavors to memory."

—Howard Freedman, (San Francisco)



Advance Praise



“In this path-breaking study Adam Rovner takes us on a riveting journey through a boundless fantasy. Masterfully written, this little known chapter in modern Jewish history is also painfully thought provoking, for had there been a viable Jewish homeland anywhere on earth prior to the Second World War, the Holocaust may not have happened.”

—Tom Segev, author of One Palestine, Complete



“Equipped with verve and an eye for the absurd detail, Adam Rovner set out across continents and into archives to recover the story of a time when desperation, imagination, and a sheer unwillingness to surrender to reality led some Jews to consider alternate Zions in unlikely corners of the globe. The result is a colorful and offbeat contribution to our understanding of modern Jewish history and of the fevered milieu out of which the State of Israel was born.”

—Matti Friedman, author of The Aleppo Codex, Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature



“Through his travel and his scholarship, Adam Rovner recovers the search for a Jewish homeland in upstate New York, in Great Britain’s East African Protectorate (now Kenya), in Angola, on the island of Madagascar and on portions of Australia, and in Dutch Guiana (now Suriname).  A fascinating physical and intellectual geography before the establishment of Israel.”

—Susan Gubar, author of Poetry After Auschwitz, Indiana University



“From an island in the Niagara River to the depths of Africa, In the Shadow of Zion shows that the contemporary state of Israel was just one of many modern attempts to solve the ‘Jewish problem’ through land. This compelling and beautifully written book reveals a history of alternative Zions rendered invisible today by national and imperial ambitions that conspired against them. A masterpiece about the true origins of Zionism and the ‘paths not taken,’ this volume is a must read for anyone interested in global Jewish history or in the history of Israel."
—David Shneer, author of Through Soviet Jewish Eyes, University of Colorado-Boulder

bottom of page