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Chaim Potok
Potok at the Miami Book Fair International of 1987
Born February 17, 1929(1929-02-17)
Bronx, New York
Died July 23, 2002 (aged 73)
Merion, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation Novelist, Rabbi
Nationality United States
Genres Literary fiction

Chaim Potok (February 17, 1929 - July 23, 2002) was an American Jewish author and rabbi.


Herman Harold Potok was born in the Bronx to Benjamin Max (d. 1958) and Mollie (Friedman) Potok (d. 1985), Jewish immigrants from Poland. His Hebrew name was Chaim Tzvi. He received an Orthodox Jewish education. After reading Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited as a teenager he decided to become a writer.

In 1950, Potok graduated from Yeshiva University with a B.A., summa cum laude, in English Literature. After receiving a master's degree in Hebrew literature, and his later rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Potok joined the U.S. Army as a chaplain. He served in South Korea from 1955 to 1957. He described his time in South Korea as being a transformative experience. Brought up to believe that the Jewish people were central to history and God's plans, he experienced a region where there were almost no Jews and no anti-semitism, yet whose religious believers prayed with the same fervor that he saw in the Orthodox synagogues at home.[1]

On June 8, 1958, Potok married Adena Sara Mosevitzsky, a psychiatric social worker, whom he met in 1952 at Camp Ramah in the Poconos. They had three children: Rena, Naama, and Akiva.

From 1964 to 1975, Potok edited Conservative Judaism and also served as editor, from 1965-1974, of the Jewish Publication Society. In 1965, Potok was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. His first novel, The Chosen, was written while he was living with his family in Jerusalem.[2] Potok edited the p'shat commentary of the Rabbinical Assembly's 2000 edition of the Chumash, Etz Hayim.

Potok died of brain cancer in Merion, Pennsylvania, on July 23, 2002.[3]

Literary career

Potok is most famous for his 1967 novel The Chosen, which became a bestseller. It was the story of two boys, Reuven Malter, a Modern Orthodox Jew, and Danny Saunders, the intelligent young son of a Hasidic rabbi, who become friends. The father, Reb Saunders, expects his son to succeed him as a rabbi and the leader of their Hasidic sect, yet Danny wants to study psychology, a secular field of study.

The book was made into a film released in 1981, which won the top award at the World Film Festival, Montreal. Potok had a cameo role as a professor. The film starred Rod Steiger, Maximilian Schell and Robby Benson. It also became a short-lived off-Broadway musical and was subsequently adapted as a stage play by Aaron Posner in collaboration with Potok, which premiered at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia in 1999.

Published works

  • Jewish Ethics, 1964-69, 14 volumes
  • The Chosen, 1967
  • The Promise, 1969
  • My Name is Asher Lev, 1972
  • In the Beginning, 1975
  • The Jew Confronts Himself in American Literature, 1975
  • Wanderings: Chaim Potok's History of the Jews, 1978
  • The Book of Lights, 1981
  • Davita's Harp, 1985
  • Theo Tobiasse, 1986
  • The Gift of Asher Lev, 1990
  • I Am the Clay, 1992
  • The Tree of Here, 1993
  • The Sky of Now, 1994
  • The Gates of November, 1996
  • Zebra and Other Stories, 1998
  • Isaac Stern: My First 79 Years (with Isaac Stern), 1999
  • Old Men at Midnight, 2001
  • Conversations with Chaim Potok (edited by Daniel Walden), 2001

See also

  • List of brain tumor patients


  1. Wanderings: Chaim Potok's History of the Jews, Chaim Potok, Knopf, New York, 1978, pp.xiii-xv
  2. Chaim Potok - Telegraph
  3. Chaim Potok

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Chaim Potok. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.