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The Rise of David Levinsky

Abraham Cahan

Book Overview: 

Coming to New York from the Russian Empire, Abraham Cahan founded the Jewish Daily Forward to help Yiddish-speaking immigrants adjust to life in New York. He also became a popular novelist, best known for his semi-autobiographical The Rise of David Levinsky, about a Russian Jew who emigrates to America and rises from rags to riches.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .O my soul," its opening words in the original Hebrew. It is a poem on the power and wisdom of God as manifested in the wonders of nature, some of its verses dealing with the sea. It is said by the faithful every Saturday afternoon during the fall and winter; so I could have recited it from memory; but I preferred to read it in my prayer-book. For it seemed as though the familiar words had changed their identity and meaning, especially those concerned with the sea. Their divine inspiration was now something visible and audible. It was not I who was reading them. It was as though the waves and the clouds, the whole far-flung scene of restlessness and mystery, were whispering to me: "Thou who coverest thyself with light as with a garment, who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind. . . . So is this great and wide sea wherein are thi. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Published in 1917 by the founder and editor for 50 years of the Jewish Daily Forward, this looks at the American immigrant experience of the time for Eastern European Jews. A couple of ironies: Cahan, a life long socialist, made his hero a rags-to-riches businessman who despised socialism; Cahan’s m

This autobiographical novel charts the rise of David Levinksy, an immigrant to New York in the late 1880s. The novel is quite long, and it took a while to get through it, but it was well worth the read. The differences between David's life as a Talmud student in Russia and his life as an upcoming cl

This wonderful novel written as a first person narrative is the life story of a poor Russian boy who emigrates to America and becomes a multi millionaire. The story is told in complete detail, with a lamenting, nostalgic feel. It is well written and arresting, but rambles too much at times, which al

One schande after another! Actually quite gripping, I had been a bit nervous that there might be too much commerce, but instead I found the story of his rise in the needle trades as exciting as the chapters about talmud schools and infatuations with modern women. Cahan sees the hypocrisy in everyone

This book was interesting in showing the difficulties of having an Orthodox Jewish background in Russia, then immigrating to the U.S.A., then trying to figure out how to make money and survive economically while you are learning a new way of living in a different culture.

The aspects I disliked in th

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