Jul 24, 2002 · Chaim Potok, scholar and ordained ..

Chaim Potok, born Herman Harold Potok, was the son of Polish immigrants and was reared in an Orthodox Jewish home. He was born in February of 1929 in New York City, where he attended religious schools. However, as a young man he became fascinated by less restrictive Jewish doctrines, particularly the Conservative side of Judaism. He attended Yeshiva University and graduated summa cum laude in English literature in 1950 before moving on to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he was ordained a Conservative rabbi. Potok then taught at several Jewish colleges, including the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, before moving on to become the managing editor of Conservative Judaism in 1964.

Photo Flash: Chaim Potok's THE CHOSEN Opens …

Which brings me to The Chosen, Chaim Potok’s 1967 novel of two teenagers in Williamsburg, ..

Potok’s first novel was The Chosen (1967; film, 1981)

For young Chaim, daily life centered, just as it had for Jewish boys in the Old World, on the local yeshiva, or parochial school, where in addition to state-mandated secular subjects, the primary focus was on the study of Jewish sacred texts. The secular world intruded only from time to time, usually in the person of the Lone Ranger, caught fleetingly on the radio at home.

Style Analysis - The Chosen By Chaim Potok

These young men's struggles were Mr. Potok's own. Herman Harold Potok was born in the Bronx on Feb. 17, 1929. (Throughout his life, Mr. Potok was customarily called by his Hebrew name, Chaim -- meaning ''life'' or ''alive'' -- which he also used professionally.) His parents, Benjamin Max and Mollie Friedman Potok, were deeply traditional Hasidic Jews, immigrants from Eastern Europe.


PERSONAL: Born: February 17, 1929 in New York City, N.Y

The novel was on The New York Times best-seller list for more than six months and was a finalist for a National Book Award. In 1981 ''The Chosen'' was made into a feature film starring Rod Steiger, and in 1988 it had a brief run as a Broadway musical. There are currently more than a million copies of the novel in print in paperback, a spokeswoman for Ballantine Books said.

The Chosen, premiered in New York, January 1988

A bearded man with a scholarly mien, Mr. Potok wrote in a straightforward prose that some critics found unpolished and others likened to that of an urban Hemingway. In his books, he drew readers -- Jews and non-Jews alike -- into a world that few had ever encountered. There, bearded, black-garbed men kept alive an ecstatic brand of Judaism, born in 18th-century Eastern Europe, that centered both on a charismatic spiritual leader, often called a tzaddik (Hebrew for ''righteous one'') and on an individual's direct relationship to God.

Chaim Potok (novel), Edwin Gordon (screenplay) ..

Mr. Potok came to international prominence in 1967 with his debut novel, ''The Chosen'' (Simon & Schuster). Unlike the work of the novelists Philip Roth and Saul Bellow, which dealt largely with the neuroses of assimilated secular Jews, ''The Chosen'' was the first American novel to make the fervent, insular Hasidic world visible to a wide audience.

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Danny's father, whom he both adores and fears, is a tzaddik, a dynastic rabbi revered by the Hasidic community he leads. As the elder son, Danny is obliged to succeed him. But Danny, who secretly reads forbidden secular books, including Freud, longs to become a psychologist, agonizingly aware of the devastation that this will bring to his father.

Chaim Potok: Analysis - La Sierra University

It was a conflict that Mr. Potok returned to almost compulsively throughout his career. In ''The Chosen,'' it plays out in the friendship of two boys, Reuven Malter and Danny Saunders. Reuven, 15, lives with his widowed father, a gentle scholar with a rationalist approach to the study of sacred texts. The Malters are observant Jews -- what today would be called Modern Orthodox -- but their life is a world apart from that of Reuven's friend Danny.

The Chosen, written in Jerusalem ..

By the time he was an undergraduate at Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish school in Upper Manhattan, Mr. Potok was privately deconstructing Hemingway on the 20-minute bus ride to and from campus, determined to learn the novelist's craft through a near-Talmudic dissection of the master's text. He had also begun to write short stories of his own, and as he entered his final year of college -- he graduated summa cum laude from Yeshiva in 1950 -- he knew that a rupture with his family was imminent.