Children of the Ghetto

by Israel Zangwill

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 453

Esther Ansell

Esther Ansell, a poor Jewish girl adopted and educated by a rich woman. Esther, sensitive and very intelligent, graduates from London University. She writes a novel of Jewish life entitled Mordecai Josephs. A shy girl, she hides behind the pen name “Edward Armitage.” Despite her success, Esther returns to the ghetto. Later she migrates to New York, drawn by her love for her family, who are already in the United States.

Mrs. Henry Goldsmith

Mrs. Henry Goldsmith, a wealthy Jewess who adopts Esther Ansell and educates her, even sending Esther’s family to America to free the girl from ghetto life. Mrs. Goldsmith is a woman who likes intellectuals and is generous to them.

Moses Ansell

Moses Ansell, a pious, orthodox, unworldly Jew. He is Esther’s father. He spends too much time praying and too little time earning a living.

Benjamin Ansell

Benjamin Ansell, Esther’s young brother, who is placed in an orphanage at his mother’s death

Becky Belcovitch

Becky Belcovitch, a kindly neighbor of the Ansells in the ghetto.

Malka Birnbaum

Malka Birnbaum, cousin of Moses Ansell’s dead wife. She tries to help her cousin’s family.

Sam Levine

Sam Levine, a commercial traveler who through ignorance of the ancient Jewish traditions marries the wrong girl.

Leah Birnbaum

Leah Birnbaum, loved by Sam Levine. She gives up her beloved because he is not an orthodox Jew.

Hannah Jacobs

Hannah Jacobs, Sam Levine’s accidental and temporary wife. She loves David Brandon, who has left the orthodox customs of his people.

David Brandon

David Brandon, Hannah’s suitor, whom she loves but finally rejects because of his unorthodoxy.

Reb Shemuel Jacobs

Reb Shemuel Jacobs, Hannah’s indulgent father. He is a rabbi.

Melchitsekek Pinchas

Melchitsekek Pinchas, a young, poor Jewish poet and scholar. He becomes editor of a newspaper sponsored by the Goldsmiths.

Raphael Leon

Raphael Leon, a young journalist of strong moral principles. He loves Esther Ansell and promises to follow her to America.


Sugarman, a marriage broker in the London ghetto.


Wolf, a Jewish labor leader who wants to be sent to Parliament.

Shosshi Shmendrik

Shosshi Shmendrik, a street hawker who marries for money.

Widow Finkelstein

Widow Finkelstein, a storekeeper who marries Shosshi.

Bear Belcovitch

Bear Belcovitch, a neighbor of Moses Ansell. He wants his daughter to marry Shosshi Shmendrik.


Debby, a poor young seamstress, Esther Ansell’s friend.

Leonard James

Leonard James, Hannah Jacob’s brother. He is a snobbish, vulgar young Jew who deserts his name and religion.

Rabbi Joseph Strelitski

Rabbi Joseph Strelitski, a rabbi at a fashionable synagogue in London. He sees himself as a hypocrite and leaves his temple to start a new life in New York.

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