THE COUSINHOOD by Chaim Bermant
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Empathic, incisive portraits of the gilded strata of Anglo-Jewry -- the self-perpetuating plutocracy of Goldsmids, Montefiores, and Rothschilds who prospered exceedingly in the meliorist air of Victorian England and mirrored faithfully the priggish, highminded benevolence of the English aristocracy. Bermant, whose previous work includes several novels (Ben Preserve Us, 1966 and Diary of An Old Man, 1967), has come up with a transatlantic match to Birmingham's ""Our Crowd,"" less gaudy but every bit as lustrous. Unraveling the intricately crisscrossed geneaologies and the discreetly made fortunes -- which paid for, among other bargains, Disraeli's purchase of the Suez Canal -- Bermant follows them into the fourth and fifth generations from the East India Company to peerage, the Derby and the corridors of power at Oxford and Westminster. Unutterably English, they trusted to English liberalism to lift the political disabilities of the Test Acts despite the warning of Daniel O'Connell that ""the English were always persecutors."" The real strength of Bermant's book is his recognition of how well they assimilated and deeply shared the values of goyim England during the halcyon days of Victorianism. Like Albert and Victoria they were intensely family oriented and produced numerous children; as devoutly as Samuel Smiles they believed in self-help; Hebraic teachings extolled the Victorian gospel of piety, thrift, and hard work; a severe sense of duty compelled them to build schools, synagogues, and soup kitchens in the ghetto even as they closed ranks to dam the influx of immigrants from the shtetls of Eastern Europe. Bermant, despite his obvious affection for the cousinhood, maintains a poised and ironic perspective throughout; it should win the respect of historians even as the gelt from commoners rolls in.

Pub Date: May 18th, 1972
Publisher: Macmillan