Tightrope: Six Centuries of a Jewish Dynasty

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9781515021803: Tightrope: Six Centuries of a Jewish Dynasty

The 750-year epic tale of the extraordinary Backenroth family, this is at the same time an engaging, scrupulously researched narrative history of Jewish life since the Middle Ages. Throughout this time span, the Backenroths could be found at some of the most important events in Jewish history: the migration of their community from western to eastern Europe, the creation of the Hasidic movement, the birth of Zionism, and the loss of so many of their family during the Holocaust. As they struggle to survive, the Backenroths marry, find their fortune in oil, and spawn families with last names that are still widely known. This sweeping family saga is shaped by real people -- talented and creative women and men swept by the dramatic tides of the history into distant regions and complex situations, where they were forced to display resourcefulness and courage in order to survive. Time and time again they slid from prosperity and opulence to profound poverty and distress, and time after time they managed to surmount crises by virtue of their personal abilities, their tenacious belief in their values, and family solidarity.

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From the Inside Flap:

In 1350, a column of wagons crawled east across Europe from Germany to the Carpathian Mountains. Its passengers were the latest Jewish family forced to undertake this arduous journey to escape the horrors of the bubonic plague and the merciless persecution of Jews that accompanied it. Though they couldn't know it at the time, they were living through the first chapter of a sweeping family saga that has spanned more than six centuries and dozens of generations and includes some of the most important events in Jewish history.

In Tightrope, journalist Michael Karpin tells the incredible true story of the Backenroths, who, though swept by the tides of history into strange lands and complex situations, repeatedly demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness, tenacity, and talent in their struggle to survive—and they would need them all.

Drawing on nearly twenty years of research that includes accounts from official records, personal diaries, fading newspaper stories, and interviews with Backenroth descendents around the world, Karpin narrates this riveting tale from the moment when, not welcome in the town of Drohobych in Galicia, where their fellow Jews were wary of newcomers, the Backenroths moved a short distance away and built their own village. In the shtetl they called Schodnica, they established a public house and maintained a family seat for the next six centuries. From Schodnica, the Backenroths would take part in and witness such momentous events as the birth of the Hasidic movement; the vicious pogroms of 1648–1649; the discovery of oil in Galicia, which transformed them from hardworking innkeepers to one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the area; and the rise of Zionism. Through the centuries, their strong belief in Judaism and family kept them wedded to their community in times of prosperity and destitution, power and peril.

As happened with so many Jewish families, the Backenroths were nearly wiped out in the Holocaust. Those few who survived showed astounding wit, courage, and determination as they not only saved themselves and other family members, but contributed to the battle against the Nazis in many different ways. The stories of the wartime exploits of Naftali Backenroth, Ullo Kahane, and others are among the most compelling and inspiring Holocaust survival tales you will ever read.

The Backenroths were extraordinary in many ways, but their precarious existence in a land where they were sometimes welcome and often despised mirrors that of millions of Eastern European Jews over the centuries. Tightrope is more than the incredible tale of a single family; it is a portal into a lost world that still plays a powerful role in Jewish tradition, culture, and aspiration.

From the Back Cover:

Jewish history from the Middle Ages to the present, told through the captivating story of one family

Nearly twenty years ago, a chance meeting with a Backenroth family member spurred journalist Michael Karpin to years of research that spanned the globe and several centuries. In Tightrope, he shares the amazing tale of a family that was in many ways extraordinary and in many others typical of Eastern European Jews. Offering a unique portrait of Jewish life through such pivotal events as the migration from Western to Eastern Europe, the birth of Zionism, and the Holocaust, Tightrope tells an inspiring, compelling, and often surprising tale of faith, courage, loyalty, and resourcefulness through centuries of struggle, heartbreak, and triumph.

"Michael Karpin has written a stirring Jewish saga, a rich and wrenching tale. I would praise this book ardently even if it were not the story of my own family."
—Leon Wieseltier

"What are authentic 'family values'? Tightrope provides an extraordinary answer for readers everywhere. An exciting human saga, skillfully researched and brilliantly portrayed on a vast canvas spanning six centuries. A richly textured guidebook of Jewish survival."
—Rabbi James Rudin, Senior Interreligious Affairs Advisor, American Jewish Committee

"This epic story of six centuries in the lives of the Backenroths is, in manyways, the history of Galician Jewry writ small. Miracles and heartbreak,poverty and wealth, fervor and apostasy, hatred and love, death andrenewal—all are displayed in these pages. An amazing, unforgettable, and gripping book."
—Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University, and author of American Judaism: A History

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Book Description Createspace, United States, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.The 750-year epic tale of the extraordinary Backenroth family, this is at the same time an engaging, scrupulously researched narrative history of Jewish life since the Middle Ages. Throughout this time span, the Backenroths could be found at some of the most important events in Jewish history: the migration of their community from western to eastern Europe, the creation of the Hasidic movement, the birth of Zionism, and the loss of so many of their family during the Holocaust. As they struggle to survive, the Backenroths marry, find their fortune in oil, and spawn families with last names that are still widely known. This sweeping family saga is shaped by real people -- talented and creative women and men swept by the dramatic tides of the history into distant regions and complex situations, where they were forced to display resourcefulness and courage in order to survive. Time and time again they slid from prosperity and opulence to profound poverty and distress, and time after time they managed to surmount crises by virtue of their personal abilities, their tenacious belief in their values, and family solidarity. Bookseller Inventory # APC9781515021803

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Book Description Createspace, United States, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. The 750-year epic tale of the extraordinary Backenroth family, this is at the same time an engaging, scrupulously researched narrative history of Jewish life since the Middle Ages. Throughout this time span, the Backenroths could be found at some of the most important events in Jewish history: the migration of their community from western to eastern Europe, the creation of the Hasidic movement, the birth of Zionism, and the loss of so many of their family during the Holocaust. As they struggle to survive, the Backenroths marry, find their fortune in oil, and spawn families with last names that are still widely known. This sweeping family saga is shaped by real people -- talented and creative women and men swept by the dramatic tides of the history into distant regions and complex situations, where they were forced to display resourcefulness and courage in order to survive. Time and time again they slid from prosperity and opulence to profound poverty and distress, and time after time they managed to surmount crises by virtue of their personal abilities, their tenacious belief in their values, and family solidarity. Bookseller Inventory # APC9781515021803

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