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The Heritage: A Jewish Historical Fiction Novel

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The year is 1926. Thousands of Jewish families are forced to flee poverty and anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. Fate takes two families to the magical continent of South America, which opens its generous arms to them. Many surprises await the immigrants in the New World. In this exciting story of their lives from their early teens in the “shtetl” to leisurely musings of mid The year is 1926. Thousands of Jewish families are forced to flee poverty and anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. Fate takes two families to the magical continent of South America, which opens its generous arms to them. Many surprises await the immigrants in the New World. In this exciting story of their lives from their early teens in the “shtetl” to leisurely musings of middle age, we see the hardships immigrants face in the long journey to America, the complex process of adaptation to an unfamiliar environment and the phenomenal development of their businesses. Parallel to the story of the main characters, another story emerges: that of the birth of a typical Jewish community within a Christian city. Translated from the original Spanish book, La Descendencia, The Heritage is peppered with reflections on religion and historical events of the time regarding the Jews and the state of Israel. Throughout the narrative, the author captivates us with a fascinating story of overcoming, human conflicts and addresses issues of assimilation and identity. Though not an autobiographical novel, it could be the story of the parents or grandparents of any Jew from Central or South America. The author preferred to use a fictional provincial capital of Latin American so that the reader can recognize the history of his or her own Jewish community, as all Jewish communities in Latin America came into being in an almost identical manner.


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The year is 1926. Thousands of Jewish families are forced to flee poverty and anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. Fate takes two families to the magical continent of South America, which opens its generous arms to them. Many surprises await the immigrants in the New World. In this exciting story of their lives from their early teens in the “shtetl” to leisurely musings of mid The year is 1926. Thousands of Jewish families are forced to flee poverty and anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. Fate takes two families to the magical continent of South America, which opens its generous arms to them. Many surprises await the immigrants in the New World. In this exciting story of their lives from their early teens in the “shtetl” to leisurely musings of middle age, we see the hardships immigrants face in the long journey to America, the complex process of adaptation to an unfamiliar environment and the phenomenal development of their businesses. Parallel to the story of the main characters, another story emerges: that of the birth of a typical Jewish community within a Christian city. Translated from the original Spanish book, La Descendencia, The Heritage is peppered with reflections on religion and historical events of the time regarding the Jews and the state of Israel. Throughout the narrative, the author captivates us with a fascinating story of overcoming, human conflicts and addresses issues of assimilation and identity. Though not an autobiographical novel, it could be the story of the parents or grandparents of any Jew from Central or South America. The author preferred to use a fictional provincial capital of Latin American so that the reader can recognize the history of his or her own Jewish community, as all Jewish communities in Latin America came into being in an almost identical manner.

30 review for The Heritage: A Jewish Historical Fiction Novel

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mirta Ines Trupp

    What will become of your heritage? A seminal question; it is the heart wrenching query on the lips of every Jew as they witness the next generation take their place as leaders and shapers of the faith. The Heritage is an excellent fictional story of two families as they emigrate from Russia to the shores of South America. While there are innumerable accounts that speak of a mass exodus of Eastern European Jews immigrating to the ‘goldene medina’-The United States of America, this book provides m What will become of your heritage? A seminal question; it is the heart wrenching query on the lips of every Jew as they witness the next generation take their place as leaders and shapers of the faith. The Heritage is an excellent fictional story of two families as they emigrate from Russia to the shores of South America. While there are innumerable accounts that speak of a mass exodus of Eastern European Jews immigrating to the ‘goldene medina’-The United States of America, this book provides much insight into another, equally fascinating, experience- that is to say, the immigration of Jews to South America. The reader follows the lives of two young men as they make their way to a fictional location in South America in the early 1900’s. With great detail, Michonik presents a vivid narrative allowing us to be privy to historical events, as well as fictional situations that surely arose, one way or another, in the life of Jewish immigrants. The Heritage provides a look into Jewish South America and shines a light on one of the more prevalent difficulties: assimilation within a Catholic nation. As opposed to the United States, most, if not all, South American countries are Catholic. It is written within their constitution; there is no separation of Church and State. While Jews living on the Lower East Side in New York might have faced anti-Semitism and hardships as a minority, it was (and remains) a completely different experience when Catholicism is the official religion of the land. Michonik weaves a mystical ribbon of longing and trepidation throughout the novel- “a kind of luminous, nearly imperceptible dew” that seems to represent the tears of ancestors crying out, “What will become of your heritage?” I could hear my own ancestors posing the same appeal. The Heritage was a pleasure to read as it mirrored much of my own family history. As a second generation Argentine, I was born to Jewish immigrants that escaped Russia prior to the revolution. I was mesmerized from the first few pages as I felt myself part of the family, identifying with their trials and tribulations. As a matter of fact, The Heritage is truly more than ‘just a Jewish’ story; it is a narrative that speaks of the quest for a better life- for oneself and for those yet to come, while remaining true to those who paved the way before us.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

    The author has based this on his own family experience, it's the story of Jewish immigrants leaving the shetls of Eastern Europe and travelling to the New World, 1920s South America, where they must build new lives while keeping their Jewish heritage intact. Rather than locating his story in a bustling capital city, Michonik chooses a small town that has promise to grow to a city, a place where it's hard to practise the Jewish faith, the Jewish immigrants must be proactive to keep their faith al The author has based this on his own family experience, it's the story of Jewish immigrants leaving the shetls of Eastern Europe and travelling to the New World, 1920s South America, where they must build new lives while keeping their Jewish heritage intact. Rather than locating his story in a bustling capital city, Michonik chooses a small town that has promise to grow to a city, a place where it's hard to practise the Jewish faith, the Jewish immigrants must be proactive to keep their faith alive in this new country while building successful business lives. I enjoyed this story especially for the setting, there are not many books around that cover the Jewish experience in Latin America. The plot has enough difference from other family sagas to make it worth seeking out. At times there is a touch too much explanation or backgrounding, though I think that it is necessary to give the impact of the ending its necessary heft. The ending...I really liked the last chapter, so enjoyed how Michonik leaves the story in mid stream, though an entirely appropriate place to finish and not give in to the temptation of an epilogue style finish. Life in the New World is complemented by letters from the main character's boyhood friend who has made his new life in Palestine. These letters add some of the background to world events, the establishment of Eretz Israel and the importance of the Jewish faith in the lives of the characters. There were some formatting problems, spaces between words were missing on almost every page. This wasn't a handicap for reading, one adjusts, though it needs to be fixed. I believe this has since been fixed on a newer edition. I received this free e-book on GoodReads direct from the author in exchange for a promise to read and post a review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Grady

    ‘Everything in life has its appointed day. There is no escape.’ Israeli author Jack Michonik is a well-traveled writer. Born in Switzerland, of Russian parents and raised in Bogota, Colombia, he then attended high school in New York and graduated in Business Administration from the University of Grenoble, France. He then lived in Cali, Colombia for 20 years before permanently settling in Tel Aviv. His many books are written in Spanish and are translated into English and French. In many ways Jack’s ‘Everything in life has its appointed day. There is no escape.’ Israeli author Jack Michonik is a well-traveled writer. Born in Switzerland, of Russian parents and raised in Bogota, Colombia, he then attended high school in New York and graduated in Business Administration from the University of Grenoble, France. He then lived in Cali, Colombia for 20 years before permanently settling in Tel Aviv. His many books are written in Spanish and are translated into English and French. In many ways Jack’s book is enhanced by his living in Colombia – a first hand sense of place and climate and philosophy and history. The book was originally written in Spanish as LA DESCENDENCIA in 2003 and translated into English as THE HERITAGE in 2014. One aspect of this writing that makes it particularly atmospheric is Jack’s incorporation of Hebrew phrases in the relating of the story of members of the Jewish diaspora from the horrors of the Holocaust who fled to South America. It works very well indeed. The story takes place in 1961 and Jack’s synopsis clarifies the direction of this impressive novel – ‘In the wake of events in the 1900’s, thousands of Jewish families left Europe in search of a better life in the New World. Most reached the shores of the United States, but some, like Leib Edri and Chaim Lubinsky, landed in South America, "where the subtle scent of this mingling of violence, laziness, revelry and gaiety hovers in the air." Leib and Chaim arrive in the town of Lárida, where there are hardly any Jews, and set up shop. They work hard, change their names to León and Jaime, take a leading role in the incipient Jewish community and create a new life for themselves while prospering, marrying and having children. Surrounded by a Christian world and the culture of Latin America, the sons of the immigrants are unable to withstand the forces of assimilation that sweep them towards their disintegration as Jews. The scope of the book goes beyond the story of the characters. Transcending the plot is the story of the birth of a Jewish community in a South American town. Lárida is "a bustling city of more than a million inhabitants" that the fact-checking reader won't find in the map, but yet, a city whose Jewish community sprang up in much the same way as those of Caracas, Lima or Bogotá.’ Though there are many novels composed in response to the Holocaust and the consequent flight of the Jews for safety, for life in countries far from the core of anti-Semitism, few relate that the birth of Jewish communities as well as THE HERITAGE does. As Jack state, ‘they just wanted a better life and fought as hard as they could to get ahead in the new world. Not only is this an intense story that captures the reader’s imagination, it is also a very fine reminder of a period in time and the subsequent effect on the live of many. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ariella

    The Heritage is a beautifully written story of two Jewish families fleeing the poverty and persecution in Eastern Europe in the early 1900’s. Fate brings two young men together as they land in South America and set out to make a better life for themselves and their families. What unfolds is a remarkable tale of their coming of age. As a backdrop to their story, we have the very real events of World War II and the birth of the State of Israel told through the eyes of another fictional character, The Heritage is a beautifully written story of two Jewish families fleeing the poverty and persecution in Eastern Europe in the early 1900’s. Fate brings two young men together as they land in South America and set out to make a better life for themselves and their families. What unfolds is a remarkable tale of their coming of age. As a backdrop to their story, we have the very real events of World War II and the birth of the State of Israel told through the eyes of another fictional character, a friend from the Shtetl back home. Our protagonists continue to adapt to their foreign land and begin to prosper, all the while honouring their heritage as it informs their every decision. They emerge as pillars of a fledgling Jewish community, but the question haunts: how to impart these values to the next generation growing up in a culturally diverse New World? A brilliantly written and impeccably researched piece of fiction. I was captivated until the end.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    From Amazon: “The year is 1926. Thousands of Jewish families are forced to flee poverty and anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. Fate takes two families to the magical continent of South America, which opens its generous arms to them. Many surprises await the immigrants in the New World. In this exciting story of their lives from their early teens in the “shtetl” to leisurely musings of middle age, we see the hardships immigrants face in the long journey to America, the complex process of adaptation From Amazon: “The year is 1926. Thousands of Jewish families are forced to flee poverty and anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. Fate takes two families to the magical continent of South America, which opens its generous arms to them. Many surprises await the immigrants in the New World. In this exciting story of their lives from their early teens in the “shtetl” to leisurely musings of middle age, we see the hardships immigrants face in the long journey to America, the complex process of adaptation to an unfamiliar environment and the phenomenal development of their businesses. Parallel to the story of the main characters, another story emerges: that of the birth of a typical Jewish community within a Christian city. Translated from the original Spanish book, La Descendencia, The Heritage is peppered with reflections on religion and historical events of the time regarding the Jews and the state of Israel. Throughout the narrative, the author captivates us with a fascinating story of overcoming, human conflicts and addresses issues of assimilation and identity. Though not an autobiographical novel, it could be the story of the parents or grandparents of any Jew from Central or South America. The author preferred to use a fictional provincial capital of Latin American so that the reader can recognize the history of his or her own Jewish community, as all Jewish communities in Latin America came into being in an almost identical manner.” My thoughts: I hadn’t realized that this work had been translated but can now see that some of the cadence of the language that I chalked up to the traditional Jewish way of speaking could well be the translation. That did nothing to detract from the story; in fact, it enhanced it. I learned a great deal about the Jewish immigrant experience in the early part of the 20th century and very much enjoyed this book. I received an ecopy directly from the publicist. This did not affect my review or rating.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Píaras Cíonnaoíth

    This is a well-crafted historical fiction. It’s a captivating and commendable work that had me immersed from the beginning. It’s an impassioned historical fiction interwoven with true-life history. The story flowed from scene to scene with ease, and the author shows exceptional ability when it comes to storytelling. There are plenty of attention-grabbing moments in this page turner that will take the reader on a truly spellbinding and fascinating journey. Highly recommended and a well- deserved This is a well-crafted historical fiction. It’s a captivating and commendable work that had me immersed from the beginning. It’s an impassioned historical fiction interwoven with true-life history. The story flowed from scene to scene with ease, and the author shows exceptional ability when it comes to storytelling. There are plenty of attention-grabbing moments in this page turner that will take the reader on a truly spellbinding and fascinating journey. Highly recommended and a well- deserved five stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lizanne Pitt

    I really enjoy Jewish Historical fiction. I think that this time I struggled to get into it, possibly because the book was translated to English. I found the overall story enjoyable and the history informative- especially since my knowledge of the Jewish community in Latin America is limited. I did find that it was a bit all over the place and sometimes I struggled to get into it again because of the random time jumps. There are also a few parts where incredible detail goes into describing thing I really enjoy Jewish Historical fiction. I think that this time I struggled to get into it, possibly because the book was translated to English. I found the overall story enjoyable and the history informative- especially since my knowledge of the Jewish community in Latin America is limited. I did find that it was a bit all over the place and sometimes I struggled to get into it again because of the random time jumps. There are also a few parts where incredible detail goes into describing things that do not really add to the story as a whole. In truth, if I understood Spanish, I would go and read it in Spanish to see if the reason I didn’t LOVE it was purely lost in translation.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Louise Pitot

    This book is really hard to put down once you start reading it. You become so involved in the lives of the characters that you always want to know more. The story mainly follows two Jewish teenage boys, Lieb (Leon) and Chaim (Jaime) and their families, who meet up on their journey west while fleeing Eastern Europe in the 1920s with little more than a small suitcase. They land up by chance in a South American city where they start out with nothing, but eventually become successful business partne This book is really hard to put down once you start reading it. You become so involved in the lives of the characters that you always want to know more. The story mainly follows two Jewish teenage boys, Lieb (Leon) and Chaim (Jaime) and their families, who meet up on their journey west while fleeing Eastern Europe in the 1920s with little more than a small suitcase. They land up by chance in a South American city where they start out with nothing, but eventually become successful business partners and important figures in the newly found Jewish community. We also regularly hear updates via letters from Berl, Lieb’s childhood friend from Russia who always dreamt of returning to Israel. I found the Jewish customs that were explained in the book very interesting, for example Shivah - the 7 days of mourning ritual a family has to observe sitting only on the floor with ripped clothes and no bathing with all the mirrors in the house covered. Relatives and friends are always there to keep you company and hold the space. When I finished the story, I felt I had a much deeper understanding of the Jewish people and also a real respect for them. A worthy book and well worth the read!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Carol Rothman

  10. 5 out of 5

    Boris Brodsky

  11. 5 out of 5

    Janet

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Schwartz

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ben Kuszer

  14. 4 out of 5

    Maya Binun

  15. 5 out of 5

    Doris Thorson

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shoshanah Tov Naiman

  17. 4 out of 5

    LILA RENFROE

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cindi

  19. 5 out of 5

    frank perrone

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dorothy H. Jodice

  21. 5 out of 5

    Darleen Ford

  22. 4 out of 5

    Susanna F.Grissinger

  23. 5 out of 5

    Barbara S. Brent

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn L. Stark

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karen C. Trautman

  26. 5 out of 5

    ilene freishtat

  27. 4 out of 5

    Charlene Bottner

  28. 5 out of 5

    JANE WALDMAN

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Hubbs

  30. 4 out of 5

    JENNIFER LAWTON

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