The Cantonist era was a terrifying episode in Jewish history,
and one that is etched in the collective memory of the Jewish
people. Tsar Nicholas of Russia conscripted thousands of Jewish
children – some as young as 6 years old – into his army for up
to 25 years! The Tsar's declared goal was nothing less than to
convert these children to Christianity; for him, their baptism
was of the highest priority.
This book reveals the struggle of these youngsters to maintain their
Judaism against impossible odds. Many failed. But some, like Golda
Meir's grandfather, succeeded in reclaiming their heritage and reconnecting
the chain of Jewish tradition. Today, thousands of Jews are descendants
of those stalwart Cantonists.
Larry Domnitch has degrees
in both political science and Jewish history. He writes extensively
for newspapers and journals throughout the United States and Israel,
especially about this unique period of history.