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Number Our Days

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  407 ratings  ·  43 reviews
When noted anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff received a grant to explore the process of aging, she decided to study some elderly Jews from Venice, California, rather than to report on a more exotic people. The story of the rituals and lives of these remarkable old people is, as Bel Kaufman said, "one of those rare books that leave the reader somehow changed."
Here Dr. Myerh
Paperback, 318 pages
Published May 9th 1980 by Touchstone (first published February 28th 1979)
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3.92  · 
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 ·  407 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Christian Cabunag
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Number Our Days is a comprehensive ethnography done by Anthropologist Dr. Barbara Myerhoff. In the ethnography, Dr. Myerhoff explores the daily lives of elderly Jewish residents living in the community of Venice Beach, California. The community is often called the "Center," which is a place where the Jewish elderly interact. Dr. Myerhoff observes and studies several residents in the Center, one of which includes Schmuel Goodman, one of the more considerable intellectuals who is educated and "int ...more
Dave Cullen
Jun 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A marvelous story. This was assigned reading in a master's Cultural Anthropology class, and I opened it with disgust, thinking I'd be bored silly with the topic.

She had me right away. She is a beautiful writer, and any group of people is interesting if you have the right instincts for seeing them, and conveying.
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I had to read this one for a qualitative research class, and I'll admit I judged a book by it's cover. I expected to have to push through it, but once I started, I couldn't put it down. It is written by an anthropologist that spends two years of her life getting to know a unique group of older Jewish adults who immigrated from Eastern Europe before or during World War II. They have created their own strong community based on shared experience despite pressure to conform to American culture. It i ...more
Kevin Larsen
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anthropology
An ethnography of an old-age Jewish community in California around 1975. It reminded me and explained strange behavior in my own social club for disabled people in a small town. Idiosyncrasies now were known to me in a way I never thought of.
I used this book for the MIT OpenCourseWare course "Introduction to Anthropology". It's been very helpful.
Susan Richards
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Though published '79-'80, it perhaps even more pertinent now, given that the generation Myerhoff describes is no longer with us..
Mike Maughan
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Its message has stuck with me for many years. That, alone, is enough to tell me it is worthwhile book.

Provo, UT. Jill Rudy
Oct 20, 2010 rated it really liked it

In Number Our Days: A Triumph of Continuity and Culture Among Jewish Old People in an Urban Ghetto, Barbara Myerhoff gives us a beautiful ethnography that reads at times like a personal narrative, at others as a memoir, and yet at others as a novel based on true stories. We are led through Myerhoff’s experiences of getting to know her subjects, and her development of personal relationships with them. We get to know them, and this is her greatest achievement: her ethnography’s subjects emerge fro
Garrett Zecker
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Number Our Days is an amazing and often touching ethnographic and anthropological study of a Jewish community center in California. Myerhoff offers a 360° view of every aspect of their lives, which is a window into not only the Jewish community, but the aged Jewish community, the community of the elderly, the relationships within a system of government no matter how small, the relationships between men and women, the dynamics of married life, and even the often difficult and dedicated life that ...more
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone with a parent or grandparent
Barbara Myerhoff creates a wonderful picture of the treatment of elderly people in our society. She is an anthropologist who decides to study a people that she will one day be a part of, a community of old Jewish people living in Venice, California. What she finds at the center is a group of people who are still fully alive and intent on living their life to the fullest, but who are ignored and degraded by their families and by society as a whole. I went into this book, which I had to read for a ...more
Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really liked the concept of this book, and I learned a lot, but the style bugged me. Myerhoff's writing is usually engaging, but a lot of times you can tell when she had to re-create the dialogue because it doesn't sound realistic and that's annoying. Also, she's an anthropologist and I felt like sometimes she quoted other anthropologists without enough support for those of us who don't know anything about anthropology. She had thorough end notes, but I really would have preferred footnotes so ...more
Connie D
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fascinating anthropological study of a group of aged Jewish people. I especially loved the humorous and poignant stories they told about their lives in the shtetl and about their traditions. There were so many lessons to learn about how to age vibrantly; this would be a great book to read with a book group, resharing the lines, stories, lessons, that most moved or struck you. (I didn't add a fifth star just because at times it's a little too anthropological, at times there's too much analyzing ...more
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was assigned to read this book for a class, but I found it to be full of charming characters! I particularly liked Shmuel Goldman, a wise, abrasive, caring, gentle man. How could you not like a man who describes the love he has for his wife, "Since [we met], that was fifty-four years ago, we've been holding hands together. That's why I could never make a lot of money. I wanted to hold her hand always."

This is an ethnography, so if you get frustrated with anthropological arguments and theory an
Jan 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Hauntingly resonant and surprisingly funny at times. The importance of community and ritual, how we age and survive, how we live, what makes for grace… I greatly appreciate the sections on how important it was for the center members to be seen, but really found it discouraging how the fought and bickered and how this was essential to their process. The section on witchcraft in the center was fascinating.
Daughters Of Abraham
This book is cultural anthropology about a group of elderly Jewish residents in a senior living center. Although the residents are mostly secular, they are fiercely Jewish. This book shows how some Jewish people are can be culturally, morally, and ritually Jewish, even when they are not well connected to formal worship.
Enjoyable book to read. Made a good discussion about family, loyalty, ritual.
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Myerhoff offers an intimate peek into Jewish culture, into the inner workings of a group of elderly Jewish immigrants from the Old World who are coping not only with their old age, but also with life in modern American. Humor, joy, irony, sorrow, anger, and bittersweet moments weave their way through the people she describes and quotes. I read this book over 20 years ago, and I'm going to read it again.
Jun 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Great account of Jewish traditions and aging from a qualitative research perspective. Barbara Myerhoff provides rich text and quotes from those individuals she researched at the Aliyah Senior Citizens' Center in Venice, California. If you are eager to interview an elder in your family or circle of friends, read this book first to gain insight of aging, culture and enduring strength.
Mar 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Barbara Myerhoff engages in a study of elderly Jewish men and women who congregate at a Jewish Center each day. Their life stories, challenges, disagreements, adventures, and love of life are all viewed in an intimate way that explore what it means to grow old as a good Jew. The real life characters are ones you will remember long after you finish reading this insightful study.
Jennifer M.
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this book when I was about 21 spending the summer at my mom's- who lives off the grid in a little camper in the hills of New York. It happened to be lying around so I picked it up. I LOVED this book. It was heart warming and heart breaking. It was a privledge to read about the values, challenges and triumps of the individuals as I settled into my own journey of reevaluating my values.
Jane Granzier
Jun 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Another college book that has stuck with me. Story of a non-practicing Jewish woman who considers herself "culturally" Jewish but not religiously so. As she studies the aging Jewish population of Venice Beach, CA as part of her PhD work, she is drawn back and chronicles what she learns from these older people as well as her decisions for becoming more spiritually engaged. Funny and touching.
May 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
How do we find meaning? What does culture mean to us and how does it shape us? How do we stay alive, truly alive, as we age. This book helps us find our way through the stories of an elderly Jewish community in LA. Such lovely stories told with respect and intelligence. I highly recommend this book.
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aging
Anthropologist Barabara Myerhoff studies a group of elder Jews in West Coast USA. While doing this survey, she besomes involved in their lives and gives us a moving testimony of their condition : aloneness, loss of trraditions, aging.
May 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Very moving book about elderly Yiddish speaking Jews and how they try to maintain their dignity and Jewish practice. Myerhoff writes the book so that you feel as though you are a member of the community at the Aliyah Center.
Mar 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Some parts of this book were interesting, but the whole spirit of the book I found lackluster. The prejudice against Jews is certainly maddening - for that matter any prejudice is maddening.
Mar 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Had to read this book for school - an interesting anthropological study of an aging Jewish community in Venice Beach, CA, and how they have survived and how they manage to keep their culture alive.
May 31, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: yiddish enthusiasts
The best parts of this book are the anecdotes from the elderly. Otherwise, the research and Barbara's quest for identity was pretty slow.
Feb 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 10, 2017 added it
Very engaging; very interesting and well-written.
SUSAn Johnson
Mar 23, 2016 rated it liked it
A beautiful writing of the process of aging of elderly Jews in Venice, CA.
Sep 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Ostensibly an anthropologist's study of home for elderly Jews, this book is really about the meaning of life.
Jan 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to columbialion by: Required reading
Anthropological work explores American Jewish emigres from the Nazis
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Myerhoff was an anthropologist, a filmmaker, and the founder of the Center for Visual Anthropology at the University of Southern California.

Myerhoff is best known for her work with the Jewish community in Venice, California. This was first documented in the 1976 ethnographic film Number Our Days, directed by Lynne Littman. She published the book Number Our Days in 1979. Number Our Days was perform