*Brooklyn. New York City borough in whose Crown Heights neighborhood Asher Lev and his family live. Asher’s home is a small, two-bedroom apartment not far from Brooklyn Parkway and a collection of Jewish establishments. A block and a half from this home stands the three-story, Gothic-style building in which his father, Reb Aryeh Lev, works for the Ladover headquarters of his Hasidic community. From this place the Rebbe, or spiritual leader of the community, sends Reb Aryeh Lev on journeys across the country and to Europe.
The Jewish community in which Asher grows up is populated with a jewelry shop owned by Asher’s Uncle Yitzchok Lev, Reb Yudel Krinsky’s stationery store where Asher buys art supplies and learns about persecution of the Jews in Russia, a yeshiva where Asher attends school, and a synagogue where the family worships. This part of Brooklyn is filled with the people whom Asher first learns to draw and admire. In this place his talents begin to emerge, and he feels his future is tied to this community. When given the opportunity to travel to Vienna with his parents, ten-year-old Asher fights to stay in Brooklyn, where he knows the parks and people.
While his father is away, Asher’s mother takes him to the Parkway Museum for the first time. There, he learns about painting and also encounters scenes depicting the crucifixion of Christ. Although Asher is cautioned by his father against looking at such paintings, he sees in these crucifixion themes a curious portrayal of profound suffering and love, a theme Asher ultimately incorporates into his own painting of his parents and himself.
Lev home. Because Asher’s mother, Rivkeh Lev, loses her brother in an automobile accident while he is traveling for...
(The entire section is 740 words.)