By Neil Kleid & Nicholas Cinquegrani (NBM/ComicsLit)
When Rabbi Kahn died it shook the close-knit, devout community he had spent four decades building and guiding. But his funeral, where his first born son Avi delivered a eulogy and prepared to assume his father’s role, was a shambles. Rebellious and troubled daughter Lea preferred furtive sex in a synagogue broom-closet to her rightful place beside her grieving mother and young Eli was clearly in a state of shock.
So tempers naturally flared when the unsavoury gentile Roy Dobbs intruded upon the event demanding to see the body of his brother one final time…
With mixed emotions the surviving family and larger congregation are forced to confront a terrible truth. David Kahn, Holocaust survivor, brilliant rabbinical scholar, wise and loving parent and spiritual glue of an entire community for more than forty years, was in fact Donnie Dobbs: a two-bit grifter and con-man who came to the neighbourhood to fleece the yokels but found something better and stayed and grew and blossomed…
With his death everything has changed. The man they all knew was a lie, so doesn’t that mean that everything he said and did was too? Surely the children of David Kahn are tarred with same brush and destined to repeat his thoughts and deeds?
How the implications affect the Kahn children and their broken, bereft mother is a masterpiece of human scrutiny, related with deft skill and great understanding, and the discreet, masterfully underplayed black and white art is effective and compassionate, never intruding into the tale but always providing just what the reader needs to see.
Here’s an intriguing human drama that deserves the widest possible attention, so I’m stifling my usual impulse and pleading that somewhere a sensitive and creative independent film-maker has the sense to option it. The Big Kahn is a witty and powerful exploration of truths big and small set against the backdrop of a traditional Jewish American community, and cannily examines not only faith’s effect on individuals but how mortals shape religion…
Until such a time however you can enjoy one of the best dramas of the year just by picking up this lovely, thought-provoking book.
© 2009 Neil Kleid & Nicholas Cinquegrani.