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Melting Point: Family, Memory and the Search for the Promised Land

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781035408917

Price: £25

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On June 7th 1907, a ship packed with Russian Jews sets sail into the Atlantic. It is heading not to Jerusalem or New York, as many on board have dreamt, but to Texas. The man who persuades the passengers to go is David Jochelmann, Rachel Cockerell’s great-grandfather. It marks the beginning of the Galveston Movement, a forgotten moment in history when 10,000 Jews fled to Texas in the lead-up to WWI.

The charismatic leader of the movement is Jochelmann’s closest friend, Israel Zangwill, whose beloved novels have made him a household name across Europe and America. As Russia becomes infected by anti-Semitic violence, and Theodor Herzl tries and fails to create a Jewish state, Zangwill embarks on a desperate search across the continents for a temporary homeland: from Australia to Canada, Angola to Antarctica. He reluctantly settles on Galveston, Texas. He fears the Jewish people will be absorbed into the great American melting pot, but there is no other hope.

The story is told in a highly inventive format: there is no 21st-century narration. Instead the author weaves together a vivid and colourful account from an extraordinary array of sources – letters, diaries, memoirs, newspaper articles and interviews. Melting Point follows Zangwill and the Jochelmann family through two world wars, to London, New York and Jerusalem – as their lives intertwine with some of the most significant figures of the twentieth century, and each chooses whether to cling to their history, or brush it off like dust and melt into their new surroundings. It is a story that asks questions of belonging, identity, and what can be salvaged from the past.

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Strikingly original ... Cockerell succeeds admirably in her stated intention to tell this little-known story in a way that is more like a novel than a work of history.
The Bookseller