Three generations of the Reinerman family desperately search out ways to survive the anti-Semitism of the Czarist Empire. Grandparents Elihu and Sarah flee the massacre of the Jews in the Novgorod ghetto in 1865. They head north to Riga where the Holy Host has not yet painted the yellow line around Riga's Jewish ghetto. They save their young sons, Herschel and Duvvid, but lose their lives. The boys are raised in foster homes.
Thirty years later Herschel runs a successful brokerage in Riga to support his wife and two children. Fifty miles from Riga, Duvvid works on Count Levidov's estate to support his wife and three sons. Approaching Easter, the Holy Host inflames the Christian population against the Jews. Duvvid's family's Passover visit to Herschel's house has to be postponed because Jews are subject to attacks on the road to Riga.
Only Christians are allowed to serve the three-year apprenticeship to learn a trade. Herschel, allied with Reverend Vilitsin, trains Jewish boys to masquerade as Christians. The Holy Host paints the yellow line around the Riga ghetto further restricting the lives of Jews. Herschel changes his nephew Yussel's name to Joseph and rushes him to Reverend Vilitsin to be trained as a Christian. The Riga ghetto is torched. Their homes destroyed, the Reinerman families scatter to find any measure of safety. Igor, a rabid activist for the Holy Host uncovers Joseph's masquerade and Joseph flees for his life to America.