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The Nine Inheritors The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Family and Their Ancient Torah Scroll A Novel

We have all fantasized about inheriting great wealth, but what is the burden if the inheritance is a rare family legacy—a hand written Torah? The Nine Inheritors tells the intimate life stories of nine heirs and how the Torah challenges them in unexpected ways. In The Nine Inheritors, Datnow recreates the worlds of our forefathers and of contemporary America. We follow the Torah and it inheritors from its “birth” in Jerusalem in the last decade of the eighteenth century, to a humble Lithuanian shtetl and then from New York City to the xenophobic South, from the top secret Manhattan Project at Los Alamos to burgeoning Silicon Valley, and from the colorful Jewish community of Mexico City to the struggling Palestinian State of the twenty-first century. All the while the Torah’s fate hangs in the balance miraculously surviving catastrophic events, until Neta Rosen, the eighth inheritor, accidentally desecrates it. In a surprising climax Samuel, the ninth inheritor, resurrects the Torah—and himself—in his own remarkable fashion. Readers of all persuasions can readily relate to The Nine Inheritors; a fascinating story encompassing the history of modern Jewry and in many ways serves as a microcosm of the culture's trials and endurance.


I totally enjoyed reading The Nine Inheritors. As a reader I immediately became immersed in the lives of the Rosen family of 1790 Lithuania. The Nine Inheritors follows the Rosen family around the world for nine generations up through the present time as they care for their inheritance of a precious family torah. Read this book. You won't be disappointed. Captain Janeway

Have you ever wished you could go back in time to meet your ancestors? What were they really like? What motivated them? What was the world they lived in and with what did they struggle? Not the air-brushed version that makes its way through history, but the complex reality. Claire Datnow's book, the Nine Inheritors, does exactly that, going back to the family shtetl in Lithuania where the family patriarch commissions a Torah to be written by a scribe in Jerusalem and returned to Lithuania through a perilous journey. She then follows that Torah through nine generations examining how each interacts with this "inheritance" and grapples with its meaning for their life. As their relationship to Judaism shifts from Orthodox to a much more secular variety, the relationship to the family Torah keeps each generation tethered to both Judaism and their family history. Sometimes it is embraced with great joy, other times it begins as an unwilling relationship, a sense of burden to be resolved. The individual stories represent the different relationships Jews have had with their religious tradition throughout time and reflects its ongoing evolution. sgweinb

Clare Datnow's novel, The Nine Inheritors, reads very much like a biography of ten generations as told by a keen-eyed on-the-scene observer. I enjoyed her omniscient point-of-view because I could journey with the characters as they each moved through their part of history.
Readers enter the story in 1790 Lithuania in the small village or shtetl of Valinsk. It is a place long-steeped in a caste system, where the clergy and the learned are considered superior to the tradespeople. Schmuel Rosen is a tradesman. For all his wealth, he is not high on the pecking order of the shtetl and it rankles, for he is a prideful, driven man.
Wanting desperately to rise above his station, Rosen arrives at the idea of commissioning a new Torah to loan, not give, the village synagogue or shul. For Rosen, the new Torah is not a pious act; it is a means of raising his station and that of his family. Datnow waxes very Michener-esque in her descriptions of all things Jewish, particularly the ritual involved in making a true Sefer Torah scroll--fascinating. In death, Rosen achieves his goal. He is buried in "the most prestigious part of the cemetery, on the higher ground of rabbis and scholars." Thus begins the journey of the Rosen Torah as it passes from one generation to the next, surviving immigration across stormy seas, theft, fire, and more.
Datnow subtly but persistently uses questions in the telling of each generation's story. The questions are asked and answered variously by each character as they inherit or come in contact with the Torah: If one does a good thing expecting personal gain, does this diminish the good thing, or is the good inherent in the good thing one did? What is the price of inheritance? When is inheritance a boon, when a burden? What is the value of holy writ in faith?
Here, the Rosen Torah is the good thing, that one holy of holies revered by the Jews and believed to be the original words spoken by God to Moses. Here we have ordinary people encountering the Torah. It is bartered, coveted, rejected, revered, and reviled as each person brings his or her own personal history to bear on the encounter.
The snake handler cannot read the Torah, but imagines it has magical powers. The KKK threatens its existence. One man's interpretation of the Torah's words causes him to disown his only son. The disowned son rejects any holy writ that causes his father to disown him.
Datnow asks questions to which there are no pat answers, as there are no pat answers in life. The readers may judge, or perhaps ask questions of their own. How could anyone do that? How could anyone think that? What place does faith have in life?
I enjoyed visiting the lives in this book, while learning more than I ever knew about the evolution of Jewish life and thought. Oct. 2011. Perle Champion: Previously published in The Writer's Draft
magazine of the Alabama Writers Forum

Like all good Yiddish epics, The Nine Inheritors: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Family and Their Ancient Torah Scroll begins with a vision. And that vision propels us on an unforgettable journey through ten generations of the Rosen family's history, accompanied by their sacred Torah Scroll and everything it is. Claire L Datnow has written an instant classic and a book, I believe, that will become a mainstay of contemporary Jewish literature.
I loved every word of *The Nine Inheritors:The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Family and Their Ancient Torah Scroll.* I literally couldn't put it down. I schlepped it everywhere in case I could catch a spare moment to read. I *needed * to know what would happen next. From the moment that Shmuel Rosen commissions his "magnificent sefer Torah from Jerusalem" (for many good reasons and a few wrong ones) until that same Torah lands battered and bruised - and in a way, far more magnificent - in a far-off land, I found myself holding my breath. I didn't want to break the spell of experiencing the lives of this story. I found myself thinking: "This is wonderful. This is magical." And then, I thought: "No. This is real." Kayla Rigbey