THE REVIEWER OPINES: “The Family” is a very emotional book. It has no overt message, but the lesson of its narrative is hard to miss: The survival of the Jews has hinged in some sense on the establishment of the state of Israel. Yet it is the U.S. that has given the Jewish people the secure homeland they have sought since the destruction of the Temple, where Mr. Laskin’s ancestors may well have been inking in Torah passages in days lost to memory.”
No one will dispute the security Jews have found in America….but…and this is the very troubling and important “but”- only Israel can secure Jewish continuity….rsk
The modern history of the Jews is encompassed in the saga of one family spread across Europe, the U.S. and Israel.
The unspeakable tragedies and improbable triumphs of the European Jewish diaspora in the 20th century have been told many times but rarely quite so compellingly as in David Laskin’s “The Family.” Mr. Laskin’s chronicle could have been written in tears—of torment and scarce joy—and it is at once anguishing and inspiring.
The story begins in 1835 with the birth of Mr. Laskin’s great-great-grandfather in the forlorn shtetl of Volozhin in the Pale of Settlement on Russia’s western edge. It ends in the second decade of the 21st century with 101 descendants in America, 32 in Israel and only a few gravestones left in Europe. In between are tales of piety amid privation, immigrant courage and industry, Zionist pioneering, Nazi brutality, and the precarious salvation of the Jewish people.
Remarkably, the modern history of the Jews is encompassed in the saga of a single family. One restless daughter, fired by revolutionary socialism, sets off alone for America, where she winds up the millionaire czarina of a brassiere empire. Another goes south and becomes a founding mother of Israel. An uncle journeys from the Pale to the Bronx and then on to Israel, where he dies just short of his 92nd birthday. Others, less intrepid, never leave home and are literally incinerated in the Holocaust. “History,” writes Mr. Laskin, “made and broke my family in the twentieth century.”