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The Rise of David
Over two million Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe entered the United States from the 1880s through the first two decades of the twentieth century. Through their numbers and initiative, they revolutionized American cultural and business life, most notably in the garment industry. Abraham Cahan, editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, captures the human side of the immigrant experience in what has been hailed as the first major American Jewish novel. Published in 1917, this classic is far from a simple rags-to-riches story. Its main character, David Levinsky, wrestles with the moral, spiritual, and personal costs of his ascent from a penniless yeshiva boy in Russia to a millionaire magnate in America.
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A Jewish War Story
Rich Cohen, author of Tough Jews, first met Abba Kovner, Vitka Kempner, and Ruzka Korczak when he was ten years old on a family visit to Israel. He had no idea these elderly people, living quietly on a kibbutz, were legends in their own times, known throughout Israel as heroes of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. In subsequent years, Cohen returned to Israel to gather their stories--of the last days of the Vilna ghetto; the attempts of Zionist and Communist leaders to organize armed resistance against the Nazis; and their flight through the sewers of the burning ghetto to the forests where they continued to fight as Jewish partisans.
Cohen recounts how, motivated by the desire for revenge, these young Zionists, all in their early twenties, chose to fight in the forests alongside Polish and Lithuanian partisans who hated Jews almost as much as they hated Nazis. At the war's end, the three made their way to Palestine, where Kovner fought in the War of Independence and lived to become one of Israel's best-loved poets.
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Editor's note: The UAHC recommends two titles every quarter for book groups. A discussion guide is available on the UAHC Significant Jewish Books Web site.
Bonny V. Fetterman is literary editor of Reform Judaism magazine.
Copyright © 2003, Union of American Hebrew Congregations