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Book details
  • Genre:FICTION
  • SubGenre:Jewish
  • Language:English
  • Pages:194
  • eBook ISBN:9798350949001
  • Paperback ISBN:9798350948998

Mendle's Bargain

by Gustav Levine

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"Mendle's Bargain" transports readers back to New York City in the early 20th century to life among Jewish immigrants; including starry-eyed idealists and wise guys, romantics and cynics. This novel offers a visit to the productive world these immigrants cobbled together from the culture they carried and the one they found.
I have written a work of fiction that transports readers back to New York City in the early twentieth century, to life among the recently disembarked Jewish immigrants, including starry-eyed idealists and wise guys, romantics and cynics, often on the verge of interrupting each other even when nodding in agreement. The American public is occasionally reminded of the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, but rarely gets to read about the women who were active in the early union movement. Those years also spawned the suffragettes, some of them asking for more than just the vote. My novel offers a visit to the productive world these immigrants cobbled together from the culture they carried and the one they found. My novel conveys what women faced in that era, and the different ways they responded. What follows is a brief summary of the novel. NARRATIVE SYNOPSIS: Mendle Rubinski, raised in a European shtetl, was apprenticed as a tailor. A man of slight build, he yearned to be a poet. In 1912 he saw his friends being drafted into the Russian Army and feared he would be next. Pincus Lanksky, who had previously emigrated to America, briefly returned to the old country for the specific purpose of offering Mendle an alternative future: marry Lansky's daughter and have his own tailor shop in New York City. Mendle, hearing everything about the business but little about the prospective bride, hesitated. Lansky sweetened the deal by agreeing to also pay for the passage of Mendle's parents and sister. At that point Mendle reasoned that his mysterious bride, whatever her flaws, would offer lesser impediments to his well-being than the Russian Army. He did not learn the true price he was being asked to pay until his wedding night. In New York City, Mendle developed close friendships with Yiddish writers responsible for the final flowering of poetry in their dying language, and came to know union activists and suffragettes. He struggled to live with the bargain that brought him to America, while his sister, a free-spirited agnostic, confronted the dilemma of falling in love with a rabbi.
About the author
Gustav Levine was born in New York on May 31, 1926. His family lived with his grandparents, whose only language was Yiddish. Yiddish was always a familiar sound for Gus and as an adult working in New York's garment center, he spoke Yiddish. When he was growing up, several of his uncles were communists who took him to rallies. He attended high school in the Bronx. As an adolescent, Gus wanted to become a trumpet musician. Through his music teacher, he was admitted to Juilliard, although he decided that being a musician was too precarious an existence. Having many friends who owned businesses in the garment center, he obtained work in the garment center. Consistent with the characters in "Mendle's Bargain", Gus knew of sons of union organizers who worked in non-union shops. During the time when he worked in the garment center, Gus became friends with Nate Dorfman who established the "Pathfinders" a group that would set up discussion tables for people to attend at various venues in New York City and then had dances afterwards. Gus recalls this organization always being investigated by the FBI. Through Nate Dorfman, Gus, who never thought of himself as a student, entered college and eventually earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Colombia Teachers College. His first job after his Ph.D. was at Creedmoor Institute in Queens, which had been founded by Arthur Sackler who later founded Purdue Pharmacy which propagated the myth that if someone was pain, addiction to opiates was impossible. Gus knew Arthur Sacker and always referred to him as "the crook." Since Gus was a researcher at Creedmoor, he applied for and received a scholarship from the James McKeen Cattell Fund to study with Clete Burke for a year learning matrix algebra. The result was the publication of his first book, "Mathematical Model Techniques for Learning Theories." Gus then obtained a job in academe in the Psychology Department at Arizona State University. Gus taught at ASU and published several other statistic books. Before retiring to Atlanta, GA where his wife had obtained an academic position, he took courses on writing fiction from Ron Carlson who headed the fiction writing program at ASU. While "Mendle's Bargain" began as a class assignment in Carlson's class, after relocating to Atlanta, GA, he improved his Yiddish by attending classes at the local synagogue and further developed the manuscript. While Gus was raised in the Jewish religion and did have A Bar Mitzvah, religion was not a prominent feature in his upbringing. Some of the characters in the book were redefining themselves with regard to what Judaism meant in their lives. Gus witnessed similar events in the life of his mother. Only when Gus' mother, then in her 80s, happened to mention that a Passover dinner was her new companion's introduction to Jewish traditions, did Gus learn that his mother's new companion was not Jewish. Jewish culture always meant a lot to Gus. During the high holy days, he always read books on Jewish tradition and the Jewish diaspora. Some of Gus' family continue to keep kosher. Much of Gus' motivation for writing "Mendle's Bargain" was to honor the memory of the Yiddish culture he loved.