New Boulder deli operated by the Twelve Tribes. Is it a cult? Seems that way
Not long ago, my husband and I returned to Boulder hungry — and late. I had read that the newly opened Yellow Deli was open late (24 hours, it turns out), so we gave it a try. Behind the cheerful yellow curtains in the front window, it has a curious hippie look to it — rustic furniture, psychedelic-style art with inspirational messages painted on the walls and soft-spoken, pony-tailed waiters. Most of the tables were occupied, either with twosomes or small groups in low-toned yet animated converations or soloists with their laptops and a beverage or small bite.
When I read that the deli is closed from 3:00 p.m. on Friday afternoons until 12 noon on Sundays, I thought it might be run by some latter-day, ’60s-inspired group of hippie observant Jews — or observant Jewish hippies of some stripe. That didn’t exactly mesh with locations, not only in Boulder but also in Chattanooga; Vista, California; Island Pond, Vermont, and three places in New York State. I was mildly curious, but not enough to investigate.
Even though I didn’t investigate the Boulder Weekly did. According to “Father, Son & Holy Toast” in the current issue, the Yellow Deli is operated by a group called Twelve Tribes, about which reporter Jefferson Dodge wrote, “The group is known for being a sort of hippie Jesus commune, one in which all members live together, have an equal voice, share the work and share the rewards, a community in which no one is rich or poor. They take biblical passages literally, believing that they should recruit others to their point of view, that adultery and the use of drugs or alcohol are wrong. Outside influences such as television and video games are frowned upon. The group reportedly wants to propagate extensively, so that there are 144,000 virginal males to serve as the bride of Messiah when Judgment Day comes.” I’m think the Weekly might have meant “virginal females,” but editor inattention aside, the real issues are what group is about.
The article is worth reading. The Twelve Tribes are an international confederation of religious communities founded in 1971 by one Gene Spriggs, who is known by his followers as as Yoneq. That alone says “cult” to me. I have no problem with religions that do not seek to proselytize, and the Twelve Tribes seems to only in a mellow, passive hippie way. Then again, so do the aggressive Christian fundamentalists behind Chick-fil-A, which is closed on Sunday and quite apparently occupies a far flank of the Christian right. FWIW, I liked Yellow Deli’s food but am less than comfortable with the group behind it, just like Chick-fil-A where I care neither for their mostly fried food-court fare nor for their far right politics.
But What About the Food?
At the Yellow Deli, my husband reported that his Rueben sandwich was very fine, as was my cranberry/cashew salad with greens, peppers, Havarti cheese and tomatoes. Coincidentally, I had eaten a similar salad at Mimi’s Cafe in Aurora (don’t ask!) earlier that very day, and the Yellow Deli one was far fresher and far better
My husband and I were both impressed with the quality and taste, but frankly, having read about the Twelve Tribes, I’m thinking we probably won’t be going back. Neither of us has much truck with cults. I didn’t take pictures of the food, because when we left the house for Denver, I didn’t expect that we’d be going out to eat. I took the shot of the sign a few days later.