Summoned: Identification and Religious Life in a Jewish Neighborhood (Hardcover)

Summoned: Identification and Religious Life in a Jewish Neighborhood By Iddo Tavory Cover Image

Summoned: Identification and Religious Life in a Jewish Neighborhood (Hardcover)


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On a typical weekday, men of the Beverly-La Brea Orthodox community wake up early, beginning their day with Talmud reading and prayer at 5:45am, before joining Los Angeles’ traffic. Those who work “Jewish jobs”—teachers, kosher supervisors, or rabbis—will stay enmeshed in the Orthodox world throughout the workday. But even for the majority of men who spend their days in the world of gentiles, religious life constantly reasserts itself. Neighborhood fixtures like  Jewish schools and synagogues are always after more involvement; evening classes and prayers pull them in; the streets themselves seem to remind them of who they are. And so the week goes, culminating as the sabbatical observances on Friday afternoon stretch into Saturday evening. Life in this community, as Iddo Tavory describes it, is palpably thick with the twin pulls of observance and sociality.

In Summoned, Tavory takes readers to the heart of the exhilarating—at times exhausting—life of the Beverly-La Brea Orthodox community. Just blocks from West Hollywood’s nightlife, the Orthodox community thrives next to the impure sights, sounds, and smells they encounter every day. But to sustain this life, as Tavory shows, is not simply a moral decision they make. To be Orthodox is to be constantly called into being. People are reminded of who they are as they are called upon by organizations, prayer quorums, the nods of strangers, whiffs of unkosher food floating through the street, or the rarer Anti-Semitic remarks. Again and again, they find themselves summoned both into social life and into their identity as Orthodox Jews. At the close of Tavory’s fascinating ethnography, we come away with a better understanding of the dynamics of social worlds, identity, interaction and self—not only in Beverly-La Brea, but in society at large.
Iddo Tavory is associate professor of sociology at New York University. He is the author of Summoned and coauthor Abductive Analysis, both also published by the University of Chicago Press.
Product Details ISBN: 9780226321868
ISBN-10: 022632186X
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: March 11th, 2016
Pages: 224
Language: English
“Tavory’s carefully observed and insightful book Summoned [is] a rich ethnographic portrait of Or­thodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews living today in the Beverly-La Brea neighborhood. . . . Tavory’s broader point is that religious communities—actually, all communities—maintain themselves not just by teaching new members norms and values, but also by filling people’s daily lives with situations that end up activating and reinforcing their self-conceptions. If you’re a sociologist or anthro­pologist, this is interesting. . . . Read­ers who are neither will likely be more intrigued by other features of Orthodox life Tavory describes.”
— First Things

“While cultivating the concept of summoning through the investigation of Orthodox Jews, Tavory demonstrates its broader applicability through use in multiple contexts. Summoned is superbly written and offers valuable insights into a broad range of subjects of sociological interest, including the practice of fieldwork, the evolution of Jewish life, the social history of Los Angeles, and the enduring value of Erving Goffman’s theorizing. Valuable for readers interested in ethnographic research, Jewish and religious studies, urban communities, and ethnicity. Highly recommended.”
— Choice

Summoned is an engaging and immersive account of the ‘thick’ activity in Los Angeles’s Orthodox Jewish community, Beverly–La Brea. The book offers a Mariana Trench–level dive into the meanings derived from interactions, myths, and gossip that energize the everyday actions of the devout. The book will generate good ideas and fresh debate for some time. . . . Summoning serves as the pivot upon which Tavory gingerly unspools the visible and invisible facets of Jewish life. . . . In a particularly illustrative section, Tavory reveals Beverly–La Brea’s ‘moral obstacle course,’ showing how the devout remap their paths on the Sabbath (e.g., avoiding push-button crosswalks) and their daily efforts to navigate the more impious aspects of Los Angeles life. Reminiscent of the very best of ethnographic observations, wherein our unseen politics, cultural tastes, senses of self, and romantic inclinations all manifest themselves into observable phenomena, Tavory shows how summoning is an infusion of moral commitment into practice and interactions.”
— American Journal of Sociology

“Informative, carefully researched, engagingly written.”
— Contemporary Jewry

Summoned offers a brilliant exploration of self-formation in La Brea, an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles. . .This is a relatively short book, but it is thick with evidence and extremely well constructed.”
— European Journal of Sociology

“A fresh and theoretically significant ethnographic study.”
— European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology

“An excellent example of a contemporary symbolic interactionist ethnography.”
— Sociology of Religion

Summoned tremendously sharpens our understanding of what identity, self, social interaction, and culture really mean. Tavory broadens and enriches our understanding of social life and its actors; how other individuals, communities, and worldviews all intersect and combine to shape our lives, in ways both subtle and far-reaching. This book is fascinating and highly original. A superb ethnography.”
— William Helmreich, author of The World of the Yeshiva

Summoned is an imaginative study of an urban neighborhood occupied by a sectarian Jewish community which makes great demands on its members, and manages to organize—in a setting not especially conducive to such an effort—a full social and religious life. Though the imageries of Orthodoxy and celebrity are quite different—a religious landscape of redemption on the one hand, and that of tabloids, bikinis and television shows on the other—Tavory demonstrates how they both occupy social worlds in which their identification is both invoked and made meaningful. He makes a compelling and interesting theoretical case based on extensive and comprehensive research.”
— Howard S. Becker, author of What About Mozart? What About Murder?

“This finely observed, beautifully crafted ethnography takes the reader into the intricate life of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community thriving in ultra-secular Los Angeles. At once witty and deeply serious, Summoned describes the moral obstacle course religious Jews face as they navigate the neighborhood, the identities and commitments evoked in everyday interactions, and the exquisite judgment required to enact religious obligations. At a deeper level, Summoned offers a new way of thinking about the interconnections among situations and anticipated situations that determine the density of summoning to which we are all subject. Masquerading as a study of an exotic sect in a lively urban neighborhood, Tavory’s analysis of how ultra-Orthodox Jews are ‘summoned’—grabbed by the world around them and reminded of who they are and what they are supposed to be doing—turns out to be not only about these fascinating groups and their strange ways, but about all of us.”
— Ann Swidler, author of Talk of Love: How Culture Matters