There is nothing at the top of the pile

Is there a difference between who you are and what you do? You can earn money and even identity from your work. But the death of a coworker, sudden layoffs, a serious illness or even the progress of the year can raise questions about the motives that usually sink into the busy pace of a claimant’s career.

Business leaders face these problems, sooner or later most people want to consult a brilliant and enterprising executive named David Lewinsky. You will probably find a few with this name on LinkedIn, but the only thing you need to know is that it exists only in the cover. The rise of David Lewinsky It was probably the first important American Jewish novel, yet its themes – the vague nature of “success” – remained timely and universal among them when the book was first published more than a century ago, in 1917.

If that was all Lewinsky As suggested, it will suffice, as we sing the Passover song. But the book provides much more, as literature succeeds, even depicting the difficulties of starting a business in a new country, the importance of production to encourage innovation, the social tensions arising from extreme inequality, and the effects of Impostor syndrome. Lewinsky, lifelong suffering. “At the bottom of my heart,” he will be reflected as a middle-aged tycoon who hires his own driver, “I keep cows in front of the waiters to this day. Ridiculed. “

Abraham Kahn’s psychologically intense story, most literally a rag-to-rich story, has long been regarded as a little classic, but it deserves special attention here as the tragic events of business life. In 1951, critic Isaac Rosenfeld wrote, “This is one of the best fictional studies of Jewish character available in English, as well as an intimate and sophisticated account of American business culture.”

The protagonist tells his own story from the point of view of advancing age, carrying the eloquent testimony of his confusing journey from the depths of poverty to the heights of business success. “The transformation I went through makes me feel like a miracle,” he wrote at the outset. But “when I look at my inner identity, it fascinates me that it is exactly the same as it was thirty or forty years ago.”

Born in Russia in 1865, the young David lived in a large house with his devoted mother and three other families. When he was 2, his father died, leaving his mother to make a living by selling pea mash and doing strange things. Despite these difficulties, he would accept any sacrifice to enroll David in a religious school. There, in spite of the humiliation of cruel teachers and poverty, his intellectual power flourished in the hothouse of Talmudic studies.

When his mother was assassinated by anti-Semitic David, David, 20, joined the exodus of his compatriots who had fled persecution for the Promised Coast of the New World – an immigration that, before the U.S. Congress stopped immigration in 1924, in the United States. Will bring catalytic flow of 2 million East European Jews. Lewinsky landed without any friends, English and 4 cents in the pocket.

That turns out to be plenty. Blessed with an adequate store of mental and physical fortitude, she survived hunger pangs and home sickness before entering the women’s clothing business and learning to sew sheets. When an opportunist, perhaps driven by piety, provides an essential first aid, including a dress, a bath, and a barber, Lewinsky readily accepts something that cannot be imagined before leaving home: his orthodox sidelock Haircut. He will also shave his chin soon. In his new country, the young man who once spent all his waking hours in religious training has discarded this part of himself as if it were melting an unseasonable skin.

A Viennese of Lewinsky sells contemporary, rather than psychoanalysis schmattas, Perhaps saying that his religious passion was ripe for ecstasy. After learning how to match his native drive, our hero soon starts his own business, to avenge himself against a somewhat heartless employer. Levinsky is an intellectual, but he is also a warrior driven by another hunger: for honor, for dignity, for kinship, and for love. Her experiments in caring for her newborn enterprise from one day to the next will be known to anyone who has gained a startup experience. The frantic search for funds to keep the wolf in the bay or to buy raw materials for a trial order led to his isolation and even abandonment. Sometimes he intentionally mixes checks in the wrong envelope before mailing, causing them to delay the day he hit his bank account. Sometimes he sends the correct check but neglects to sign.

As a salesman, a role that doesn’t come naturally to the studying and thin-skinned Lewinsky, there is no limit to his perseverance and skill — and every bit he needs to get his first order. He learns English as quickly as possible by making his way through Dickens, first painfully and then into something like delirium. He will also read Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer, embracing the unfortunate social Darwinism that seems to be living in the dog-eating-dog world of the rag trade.

Lewinsky did not hesitate to copy successful clothing designs to competitors (which is legal, then now, until a distinctive “commercial clothing” is reproduced). He works under the radar of the Union, stops on weekends to catch religious landlords, and sometimes keeps labor costs low by renting potential money to cross the Atlantic. He also gives them the opportunity to apply their skills and appetite over a long period of time by paying for piecemeal work যার resulting in fat rather than thin, even if union rules are violated.

The novel argues that Russian Jews like Levinsky were able to take over the clothing business from their German Jewish predecessors not only because the former was new and hungry, but also because they entered the business with technical skills from the old country. In the United States, they have used this knowledge to innovate in production, improve the quality of clothing, and reduce costs.

“The old clothes-makers, the German Jews, were just merchants. On the other hand, most of our people were tailors or clock operators who learned the mechanical part of the industry, and they were introducing thousands of innovations into it, perfecting it, revolutionizing it. We brought to our work a knowledge, a taste and a greed that the people of the old company did not have. And we dropped our irrationality as well. We’ve adapted to the American way of doing things as we get older. “

In the 30 years since Peniless Ruby arrived, Lewinsky has transformed himself into a democratic fashionist with a Polish American industrialist এবং and his fellow immigrants. The result, she says, uses an important adjective with the precision of a needle, “the average American woman is the average woman dressed in the best clothes in the world.”

In the 30 years since Peniless Ruby arrived, Lewinsky has transformed himself into a democratic fashionist with a Polish American industrialist এবং and his fellow immigrants.

Yet, without a wife, children, or faith in God, and alienated from Jewish tradition, Lewinsky’s biggest problem is one that surrounds many who work hard to succeed in business, and that is a problem of purpose. Towards the end of the book, after describing his remarkable accomplishments, he sadly reports: “My sense of triumph is mingled with a sense of emptiness and worthlessness. I do. “

He was particularly upset by the decision not to attend City College and perhaps to become a writer or physician. And he never seems to be able to overcome the tendency to fall in love with the women he can’t love while avoiding the more appropriate matches that are always on offer. Gives a brief glimpse of the larger meaning of his engagement to a pious young woman he hopes to find in a family. “My outlook on working for my wife and children provoked a desire for altruism in a broader sense. While free from any scratch of religion, in the general sense of the word, I was shaking with a religious joy that was based on public sense of duty.” But Lewinsky soon married.

Abraham Kahan, though he wrote Lewinsky In English, he was editor for many years Daily Forward, The great Yiddish newspaper whose socialism reflects his views. It is not surprising that he will give us a tycoon whose experience, turning away from Jewish tradition to create fortune, equates material success with infertility. Rosenfeld praised the book, saying that “it is, at the same time, an imitation of the influential myths of American capitalism – that the millionaire finds nothing but emptiness at the top of the pile.”

The interesting thing about David Lewinsky is that his problems are our problems. In one sense or another, we are all immigrants today, devoid of tradition, deviating from the wonderful world of technology, and so often lacking the many bonds of family and culture that once held us back. The freedom and prosperity that we are fortunate enough to share with Levinsky to some extent is far better than the alternatives, yet somehow not enough within ourselves.

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