Synopses & Reviews
This lively ethnography traces a fraught three months in the life of a Jewish congregation stubbornly persisting on the Lower East Side, and affords a candid, lucid and intimate introduction to contemporary synagogue practice.
In these pages Jonathan Boyarin invites us to share the intimate life of the Stanton Street Shul, one of the last remaining Jewish congregations on New York's historic Lower East Side. This narrow building, wedged into a lot designed for an old-law tenement, is full of clamorous voices the generations of the dead, who somehow contrive to make their presence known, and the newer generation, keeping the building and its memories alive and making themselves Jews in the process. Through the eyes of Boyarin, at once a member of the congregation and a bemused anthropologist, the book follows this congregation of "year-round Jews" through the course of a summer during which its future must once again be decided.
The Lower East Side, famous as the jumping off point for millions of Jewish and other immigrants to America, has recently become the hip playground of twenty-something immigrants to the city from elsewhere in America
and from abroad. Few imagine that Jewish life there has stubbornly continued through this history of decline and regeneration. Coming inside with Boyarin, we see the congregation's life as a combination of quiet heroism, ironic humor, disputes for the sake of Heaven and perhaps otherwise, and above all the ongoing
search for ways to connect with Jewish ancestors while remaining true to oneself in the present.
Mornings at the Stanton Street Shul illustrates in poignant and humorous ways the changes in a historic neighborhood facing the challenges of gentrification. It offers readers with no prior knowledge of Judaism and synagogue life a portrait that is at once intimate and intelligible. Most important, perhaps, it shows the congregation's members to be anything but a monochromatic set of uniform "believers" but rather a gathering of vibrant, imperfect, indisputably down-to-earth individuals coming together to make a community.
"A meditation on ethnography, on the nitty-gritty, idiosyncratic, contingent nature of ethnography and the ways that anthropologists are personally implicated in the research and writing that they do."-Ay ala Fader, author of Mitzvah Girls: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn
"Boyarin brilliantly articulates a Jewish ethnographic voice that moves beyond salvage ethnography, providing a richly detailed portrait of an enduring institution and a complex neighborhood through the lens of his own experience."-Nathaniel Deutsch, author of
The Jewish Dark Continent: Life and Death in the Russian Pale of Settlement
"This beautiful, new book confirms Jonathan Boyarin's status as one of the most innovative scholars in Jewish Studies. Mornings at the Stanton Street Shul is a field journal and monument to religious endurance. But, first and foremost, it is a celebration of the pleasures of Jewish life."-Matti Bunzl, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
"In a journal that is always humane, and often humorous, Jonathan Boyarin lovingly details one summer in the life of the Stanton Street Synagogue. Boyarin is the perfect tour guide to take us inside the ever-changing Jewish world on the Lower East Side--a place 'where hip meets hip replacement.'"-Mort Zachter, Author of Dough: A Memoir
"Turning his impassioned ethnographic eye on the Stanton Street synagogue on New York's Lower East Side, Boyarin finds high drama in this intimate setting. Characteristically adventurous and experimental, Boyarin offers a fascinating account of everyday life as it unfolds in the moment. At the heart of the story is generational conflict in a neighborhood more Chinese and Latino today than jewish, A model of engaged ethnography."-Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Museum of the History of Polish Jews
"Academic Boyarin goes popular with a journal of the 12 weeks in 2008 that he faithfully attended morning prayers at the 90-plus-year-old synagogue--the shul--of his Modern Orthodox home congregation on Manhattan's Lower East Side. . . As absorbing as a good cinema verité documentary, Boyarin's personal ethnography may make Lower East Side tourists of many readers hooked by its abundant charm."-Booklist
"[Boyarin] illustrates in poignant and humorous ways the changes taking place in a historic neighborhood facing gentrification."-Carolina Arts and Sciences
"'Mornings at the Stanton Street Shul' is inviting, provocative, funny, and stimulating..."- Emily Katz, H-Net Reviews
About the Author
is Leonard and Tobee Kaplan Professor of Modern Jewish Thought at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His most recent books are Powers of Diaspora
(with Daniel Boyarin), Jewishness and the Human Dimension
(Fordham), and Time and Human Language Now
(with Martin Land).
Table of Contents