Summoned Identification and Religious Life in a Jewish Neighborhood

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Iddo Tavory’s Summoned: identification and religious life in a Jewish neighborhood builds up on the understanding of readers regarding social life and interaction, culture, and mainly identity by studying one particular group- the Jewish orthodox living in the Beverly-La Brea, South east of Hollywood. It is an example of symbolic interactionist ethnography that express how the interaction of humans with their surrounding will help us understand human beings more. It can also be seen as an auto ethnography in which the author writes it from both field and personal experiences.

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One of the major strength of the book is how its construction engages well with its arrangement and coordination. This is clearly seen in the logically coordinated eight chapters of the book.

Even though the book is short, it consists of abundant evidences that are constructed professionally. It starts from the history of the neighborhood and continues to its current state focusing on organizational structure and current role in everyday summoning (p.13), to synagogue life in how religion gatherings and conventions help members get closer, to the distinction among the neighborhood Jews internally (p.79), to the differentiation of the non-Jewish people regarding work and other social life and finally to the way in which the Jews navigate their environment and its morally treacherous passages, such as button-operated crosswalks(p.127). Moreover, it emphasizes on how and when the orthodox Jews are summoned in everyday life and the unfolding of their interactions due to projects and summons of others (p.7). Their identity is constructed through their social life and experience.

Another Strength of the book lies in its auto ethnography nature in which Tavory takes the readers to the field by acting as a medium. This makes the unfamiliar place understandable and more relatable. He also provides an in depth analysis of the theme from interpersonal things like the furnishing and predictability of Judaism by cloth, manner and food (p.66-67, 82-84, 94-96, 139-140), to the changing of the neighborhood and the day-to-day practices regarding symbolic boundaries (37, 40, 129-132).Moreover, Tavory uses imagery and metaphor to make his writing delightful and to express how life was to the readers. In addition, his language usage and metaphors provides a better insight to readers and makes the book enjoyable and relatable. For instance, to explain the thickness of the life of the Jewish people while he was living there, he writes: “living an Orthodox life in the Beverly-LaBrea neighborhood was like swimming in honey” (p.3).According to Tavory, to be orthodox is not just a status, it requires a lot to be one.

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