Acclaimed by literary critic Carl Van Doren as "the most important of all immigrant novels," "The Rise of David Levinsky" takes place amid America's biggest and most diverse Yiddish-speaking community during the early 20th century. David Levinsky, a young Hasidic Jew struggling to master the Talmud, seeks his fortune amid the teeming streets of New York's Lower East Side. All the energy formerly focused on his religious studies now turns in the direction of rising to the top of the business world, where he discovers the high price of assimilation. Author Abraham Cahan founded and edited the "Jewish Daily Forward, "the world's most widely read Yiddish paper, and his direct experience contributes mightily to the authenticity of this monumental work.
About the Author
Abraham "Abe" Cahan (July 7, 1860 - August 31, 1951) was a Lithuanian-born Jewish-American socialist newspaper editor, novelist, and politician. Abraham Cahan was born July 7, 1860, in Podberezhie in Lithuania (at the time occupied by the Russian Empire, into an orthodox Litvak family. His grandfather was a rabbi in Vidz, Vitebsk, his father a teacher of Hebrew language and the Talmud. The family, which was devoutly religious, moved in 1866 to Vilna (Vilnius), where the young Cahan received the usual Jewish preparatory education for the rabbinate. He, however, was attracted by secular knowledge and clandestinely studied the Russian language, ultimately prevailing on his parents to allow him to enter the Teachers Institute of Wilna, from which he was graduated in 1881. He was appointed teacher in a Jewish government school in Velizh, Vitebsk, in the same year. Cahan's Immigration Abraham Cahan lived in Russia when the country was a pre-industrial Christian state with an economic structure that deterred the advancing economic activities in which Jews typically partook. Russia had a record of Jewish intolerance as the Czarist government viewed the Jewish minority as an autonomously governable group which became subject to discrimination and even brutality. By 1879, when Cahan was still a teenager, he had associated himself with the growing radical revolutionary movement in Russia. Czar Alexander II was assassinated by a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party in March 1881, causing all revolutionary sympathizers to be suspect by Russian police. In 1882 the Russian police searched Cahan's room for radical publications that could be linked to the Socialist Revolutionary Party. This visit from the police prompted the young socialist schoolteacher to escape to the United States through emigration. Cahan was by no means unique in his venture. At the time of his immigration to America three quarters of American Jewish immigrants came from Czarist Russia. Cahan arrived by steamboat in Philadelphia on June 6 of 1882 and immediately traveled to New York where he would live for the remainder of his life.