Wednesday, October 30, 2013

by David Laskin

Blame it all on Lazar Kaganovich. He was one of Stalin's top butchers that killed millions in the Ukraine between 1932 and 1933. It is because of him that brought David Laskin to research the history of his mother's family. From his grandfather all the way back to his great-great-great grandfather, and perhaps beyond, they were all Torah scribes. Their Hebrew name was HaKohen ("the priest") and their Russian name was Kaganovich ("son of Kagan").
Shimon Dov was the patriarch. He and his wife, Beyle, raised six children in the shtetl ("little town") of Volozhin a century and a half ago. This area was known as the Pale of Settlement. Warsaw, Kiev, Odessa were some of the major cities. Because they were descended from an ancient faith, the couple believed that their five sons and one daughter would continue to carry on their traditions for future generations. Two world wars would change everything.
The family was separated into three different directions. One branch immigrated to America and were the founders of the Maidenform lingerie in 1922; one immigrant went to Palestine before Israel's birth; the third branch had the unfortunate luck to remain in Europe during the Holocaust.
The Family is one hell-of-a-book. It's quite impossible to put down and I was actually sorry when it ended. The writing is beautiful, compelling, emotional, and truly magnificent. How Laskin weaves together all of the characters of the entire family seems effortless. You are swept up immediately into their lives and you just cannot stop reading. Laskin certainly knows how to tell a great story.
This is quite a masterpiece.
Very highly recommended.