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Chaim Potok (1929–2002)

Author of The Chosen

39+ Works 21,456 Members 298 Reviews 109 Favorited

About the Author

Chaim Potok was born in New York City in 1929. He graduated summa cum laude (with highest honors) from Yeshiva University in 1950, and received an advanced degree from Jewish Theological Seminary in 1954, when he also became an ordained Conservative rabbi. After two years of military service as a show more chaplain in Korea, Potok married Adena Sarah Mosevitsky in 1958. The couple had three children. Eventually Potok returned to school and received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1965. Potok has held a variety of positions within the Jewish community, including directing a camp in Los Angeles, teaching at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles at a Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, and working as an editor on various religious publications, Potok's first novel, The Chosen, was published in 1967, and he quickly won acclaim for this best-selling book about tensions within the Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities. This and later books have been both critically and popularly successful. Many of them explore the meaning of Judaism in the modern era, focusing on the conflict between traditional teachings and the pressures of modern life. The Chosen was nominated for a National Book Award in 1967 and made into a successful film in 1982. Its sequel, The Promise (1969) was the winner of an Athenaeum Award. Potok is also the author of a nonfiction volume, Wanderings: Chaim Potok's History of the Jews (1978), as well as several short stories and articles that have been published in both religious and secular magazines. (Bowker Author Biography) show less


Works by Chaim Potok

The Chosen (1967) 6,620 copies
My Name Is Asher Lev (1972) 4,433 copies
The Promise (1969) 2,216 copies
Davita's Harp (1985) 1,457 copies
The Gift of Asher Lev (1990) 1,370 copies
In the Beginning (1975) 1,221 copies
Wanderings: History of the Jews (1978) 1,069 copies
The Book of Lights (1981) 997 copies
I Am the Clay (1992) 532 copies
The Gates of November (1996) 445 copies
Old Men at Midnight (2001) 388 copies
Zebra and Other Stories (1988) 154 copies
My First 79 Years (1999) — Author — 140 copies
The Tree of Here (1993) 62 copies

Associated Works

I Never Saw Another Butterfly (1959) — Foreword, some editions — 835 copies
Tales of the Hasidim (1949) — Foreword, some editions — 619 copies
As a Driven Leaf (1939) — Introduction, some editions — 582 copies
Growing Up Jewish: An Anthology (1970) — Contributor — 124 copies
Coming of Age in America: A Multicultural Anthology (1994) — Contributor — 95 copies
The Jewish Writer (1998) — Contributor — 53 copies
The Chosen [1981 film] (1981) — Novel — 27 copies
Het derde Testament : Joodse verhalen (1995) — Contributor, some editions — 7 copies
Chaim Potok - Bzzlletin 235 (1996) — Contributor — 2 copies


20th century (155) adult fiction (56) American (131) American fiction (68) American literature (244) art (178) Brooklyn (99) Chaim Potok (119) classic (73) classics (79) coming of age (206) family (80) fiction (2,821) friendship (114) Hasidism (118) historical fiction (109) history (232) Jewish (735) Jewish fiction (199) Jewish History (93) Jewish literature (191) Jews (161) Judaica (219) Judaism (846) literature (400) New York (226) New York City (70) non-fiction (88) novel (570) own (75) paperback (53) Potok (49) read (193) religion (306) Roman (171) to-read (458) unread (66) USA (125) WWII (80) young adult (62)

Common Knowledge



April 2023: Chaim Potok in Monthly Author Reads (May 2023)


This was a non-fiction read, but read like a novel. It was the story of the Slepak family from the days of Bolshevism to the son's eventual emigration to Israel. Potok collected information from the family through taped interviews and photographs. This Jewish family suffered terribly under Brezhnev, Kosygin, and Tikhonov regimes. From Potok's epilogue, ""Can we learn something from these chronicles about iron righteousness and rigid doctrine, about the stony heart, the sealed mind, the capricious use of law, and the tragedies that often result when theories are not adjusted to realities?" 272 pages… (more)
Tess_W | 5 other reviews | Apr 7, 2023 |
Nostalgia-tinged tales of baseball, childhood, and coming of age will always push my buttons. Judaism less so, and I’m not sure I will retain much of the detailing here of Jewish and Zionist traditions. The lead characters’ reverence for study, their keenness to lose themselves in it, is memorable, as is the overall package. (Interesting how the reverence or respect accorded here to Freud and the nascent United Nations now feel so dated). Lots more to admire: the strong Brooklyn sense of place and time, the calm measured narration, the lovely cover image (of a coming of age boy thoughtfully preening - Penguin paperback edition). Another bonus in that edition: the hilarious debunking in Shalom Auslander’s short introdution and context-setting, which helps the reader to enjoy the work (rather than its worthiness).… (more)
eglinton | 92 other reviews | Mar 25, 2023 |

This is so well done... Damn
Eavans | 92 other reviews | Feb 17, 2023 |
This book, Chaim Potok's only work of non-fiction, was a history of the Jews, from Ur (Abraham's birthplace) to Entebbe. I gave the book three stars despite the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and found large parts of it worthwhile. Several reasons:

1) The treatment of the last 170 years of Jewish history was overly compressed;
2) Very short shrift was given American Jewish history;
3) The treatment of Islam focused on its "golden era" in Spain, not the far more representative periods of extreme violence and bloodshed. Think September 11; and
4) The author thoroughly trashes the period of history known as The Enlightenment.

The book, as it must, focuses heavily on the ups and downs of pre-Diaspora life in the Levant. That portion of the book was extremely good. Potok seems to take the point of view that Jewish life, at that point, transferred to Europe, and at that point Jewish life died at first a slow, than an accelerating death. He views the Enlightenment era as a disaster.

That is problematic. The pre-Enlightenment period was horrific. And when the Enlightenment first spread to England and then America, the results were extremely positive for the Jewish people. There is no question in my mind that the European interlude was a barely mitigated tragedy and disaster. He does give very good, even humorous examples of the totally crazed nature of Catholic religious belief and other fringe Christian beliefs of the Middle Ages.

Inexplicably, he barely mentions the Protestant Reformation and does not at all mention the Gutenberg Press. Overall, the book was well worth the month I spent in reading it. Was it perfect; hardly.
… (more)
JBGUSA | 8 other reviews | Jan 2, 2023 |



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