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Eating at God's Table

How Foodways Create and Sustain Orthodox Jewish Communities

Jody Myers

Food and Beverage, Jewish Studies, Jewish Life and Tradition, Anthropology

Raphael Patai Series in Jewish Folklore and Anthropology

Printed Paper Cased
Available November 2023
ISBN: 9780814349557
Pages: 340 Size: 6x9
Available November 2023
ISBN: 9780814349540
Pages: 340 Size: 6x9
Available November 2023
ISBN: 9780814349564

How do contemporary American Orthodox Jews use food to create boundaries, distinguishing and dividing groups from each other and from non-Orthodox communities? How does food symbolize beliefs, sustain and grow communities, and represent commitment to God? Eating at God’s Table explores answers and examples from ten years of ethnographic research in the Orthodox enclave in the west Los Angeles Pico-Robertson neighborhood. Author Jody Myers explores the food-centeredness of Orthodox Jewish religious practice and the evolutionary development of today’s demanding kosher laws. Opening with four scenarios based on real observations, Myers illustrates how many Orthodox residents’ religious beliefs and practices around food are integrated into, even inseparable from, their daily activities. While the shared commitment to the kosher diet creates an overall sense of community, Orthodox sub-affiliations in the neighborhood use foodways to construct smaller, intimate communities, and individuals use food to fashion personal identities within the larger group. This rich exploration of kosher Orthodox foodways and their meanings demonstrates the inadequacy of limited or simple definitions of Orthodox Jewishness and offers insight into the religious diversity in American communities.

Jody Myers (1954–2022) served as director of the Jewish Studies Interdisciplinary Program at California State University, Northridge. She is the author of books on Tzevi Hirsch Kalischer’s messianic activism and the Kabbalah Centre and coeditor of a book on Jewish foodways and ethics. She authored numerous articles on these and other topics including contemporary women’s rituals and education.