Three thousand years ago, tradition says the prophet Samuel anointed a lowly shepherd named David king of Israel.A warrior who could defeat Goliath and write love psalms, David managed to pull the quarreling Jewish tribes together into one nation and then ruled a kingdom that today remains the heart of Jewish claims to the land of Israel.fanned out across Mesopotamia, the Levant, Egypt and the Mediterranean basin in search of new lands in which to practice their faith.
Her father, the well-known Yiddish actor Pesach “Peishachke” Burstein, had run away from home as a teenager to join a traveling East European theater troupe, and her equally well-known mother Lillian, had been raised in Brooklyn disconnected from her family’s East European history.
Her mother’s grandmother, Rivkah Rabinovitch, had immigrated to New York but was traumatized by pogroms and rarely spoke of the past.
She was also related to the first Lubavitcher Rebbe and founder of Chabad, Shneur Zalman of Liadi.
Through these great rabbis, she was told, she was a descendant of King David.
Not any chair, but the hand-carved chair of Rebbe Nachman, the 18th century founder of the Breslover Hasidic sect in the Ukraine.
Her parents were actors who had left their pasts behind.
Like other Jews, they followed varying routes to modernity, separating into Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi and other groups.
Some families, especially rabbinic ones, kept careful track of their pedigrees, passing the tradition of royal descent from generation to generation.
But through the centuries, plagued by perennial migrations and persecution, the vast majority of King David’s descendants, a number estimated to be in the millions, lost knowledge of the line…
The Ashkenazi Path Susan Roth discovered her family’s lineage through a chair.
Today, anyone can search for family records and documents or collect oral histories, but for many generations it was the exclusive domain of scholars and rabbis.