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Mornings at the Stanton Street Shul Debuts at the Angel Orensanz Center & Receives Booklist Review

14th November 2011

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Author Jonathan Boyarin at the Angel Orensanz Center

Mornings at the Stanton Street Shul: A Summer on the Lower East Side by 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.

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

Releasing last week, at the Angel Orensanz Center, an enthused Jonathan Boyarin thanked some of the familiar faces from the Shul and read a few excerpts from the book.

Booklist gave this favorable review.

Mornings at the Stanton Street Shul: A Summer on the Lower East Side
Boyarin, Jonathan (Author)
Nov 2011. 208 p. Fordham, hardcover, $24.95. (9780823239009). 296.097.

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. Besides the daily suspense over whether enough men for a minyan will show up, he records the regulars and others who do; their personalities, concerns, relations, and life in the congregation; the congregation’s history, relations with other Orthodox synagogues and institutions, and efforts to keep its historic character and building intact; and the ever-changing face of the neighborhood, now as obviously part of Chinatown as it once was a locus of East European Jewish immigrants. He mentions his dreams, as long as they’re pertinent to the shul, and family events within the context of shul life. The big congregational to-do during the period is over one rabbi’s departure and the search for his successor. 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.–Ray Olson

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