Synagogue Life: A Study in Symbolic Interaction

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Overview

Via a participant-observer approach, Synagogue Life analyzes the three essential dimensions of synagogue life: the houses of prayer, study, and assembly. In each Heilman documents the rich detail of the synagogue experience while articulating the social and cultural drama inherent in them. He illustrates how people come to the synagogue not only for spiritual purposes but also to find out where and how they fit into life in the neighborhood in which they share.

In his new introduction, Heilman discusses what led him to write this book and the process of personal transformation through which he, as an Orthodox Jew, had to go in order to turn a disciplined eye on the world from which he came. Rather than using the stranger-as-native approach of classic anthropology, he had instead to begin as a native who discoverd how to look at a once-taken-for-granted synagogue life like a stranger. In the afterword, arguing for the efficacy of this approach, Heilman offers guidance on how natives can use their special familiarity and still be trained to distance themselves from their own group, making use of the disciplines of sociology and anthropology. Synagogue Life offers a fascinating portrait that has something to say to social scientists as well as all those curious about what happens in the main arena of Orthodox Jewish community life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Well-written, documented, and researched. It is a must for general sociologists, ethnogrpahers, sociologists of religion, and those interested in ethnic minorities.”

—Julian B. Roebuck, Social Forces

“This masterful study makes an important contribution to the sociology of religion and to the description of contemporary Judaism.”

—Jacob Neusner, Journal of Jewish Studies

Booknews
Reprint of the 1976 edition with a new introduction and afterword by Heilman. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765804334
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Samuel C. Heilman is the Harold Proshansky Professor of Jewish Studies and Sociology at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York and on the faculty of Queens College. He is the author of The People of the Book, The Gate Behind the Wall, A Walker in Jerusalem, and Synagogue Life: A Study in Symbolic Interaction (available from Transaction).

Samuel C. Heilman is the Harold Proshansky Professor of Jewish Studies and Sociology at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York and on the faculty of Queens College. He is the author of The People of the Book, The Gate Behind the Wall, A Walker in Jerusalem, and Synagogue Life: A Study in Symbolic Interaction (available from Transaction).

Samuel C. Heilman is the Harold Proshansky Professor of Jewish Studies and Sociology at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York and on the faculty of Queens College. He is the author of The People of the Book, The Gate Behind the Wall, A Walker in Jerusalem, and Synagogue Life: A Study in Symbolic Interaction (available from Transaction).

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Table of Contents

Introduction to the Transaction Edition
Preface
1 Background, Beginnings, and Definitions 3
2 The Setting 25
3 The House of Prayer: The Cast of Characters 63
4 Shifting Involvements 129
5 Gossip 151
6 Joking 193
7 Singing, Swaying, Appeals, and Arguments 211
8 The House of Study 221
9 The House of Assembly 253
10 Final Words 261
Afterword to the Transaction Edition 269
Notes 285
Glossary 301
Bibliography 307
Index 313
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2000

    an insider's analysis of an Orthodox synagogue

    This is a realistic and extremely revealing look into the typical modern Orthodox synagogue. Not only does it describe the large issues of prayer, study and assembly, but it gets into the nitty gritty of gossiping, joking, arguments and the many involvements that make up today's synagogue life. A classic.

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