The Rabbi Who Wasn’t Jewish
by Neil Kleid and Nicolas Cinquegrani
When Rabbi David Kahn dies, his brother turns up at the funeral. No great surprise in most cases, except no one knew that he had a brother. A further shock: Roy Dobbs isn’t Jewish. He claims his brother wasn’t either, but that they had been a pair of small time con men. Avi Kahn, David’s son, is poised to take over the congregation, but through the mourning and the doubts raised by the revelations, he is not sure he can. Donnie (David) and Roy had been running a grift at a bar mitzvah, when Donnie met Rachel and fell for her. He had to keep up the pretence that the brothers had used to get into the bar mitzvah that he was Jewish.
The novel is about how the three children cope with their new story of their father’s life. Lea hits the town and doesn’t want to go home; young Eli gets into fights at school while gambling, and Avi becomes involved with Lea’s room mate.
As things go on, Lea visits a Jewish women’s class, Avi applies for a new job. The central irony of the book is that a con led to a man living the best life he could building a temple from scratch and fathering a happy family, despite the lie that is central to his life. Kleid takes this right up to last moment, and Cinquegrani’s dark lines and gray washes are a straightforward medium for the tale.