Book Notification

Chaim Potok Books In Order

Book links take you to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn money from qualifying purchases.

Publication Order of Asher Lev Books

My Name Is Asher Lev (1972)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Gift of Asher Lev (1990)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Reuven Malther Books

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

In the Beginning (1975)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Book of Lights (1981)Description / Buy at Amazon
Davita's Harp (1985)Description / Buy at Amazon
I Am the Clay (1992)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Tree of Here (1993)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Sky of Now (1995)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Collections

Zebra and Other Stories (1998)Description / Buy at Amazon
Old Men at Midnight (2001)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Collected Plays of Chaim Potok (2018)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

Wanderings (1978)Description / Buy at Amazon
Tobiasse: Artist in Exile (1987)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Gates of November (1996)Description / Buy at Amazon
My First 79 Years: Isaac Stern (1999)Description / Buy at Amazon
Conversations with Chaim Potok (2001)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

Hanukkah Lights of Stories and Narrative About Hanukkah(1995)Description / Buy at Amazon
One for Each Night(2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

Chaim Potok was a Jewish philosophy, religion and fiction author best known for his debut novel “The Chosen.” The author was born in 1929 to Polish Jewish immigrants Mollie Friedman and Benjamin Max Potok. His father had come to the US a decade before the Great Depression and started a stationery selling business. After the Great Depression struck, he changed careers and started selling jewelry. The Potok patriarch raised his children in the Orthodox Jewish tradition and his brother would ultimately graduate as a rabbi and his two sisters are now married to rabbis. Just like many young men raised Orthodox, he attended parochial school such as the Talmudic Academy of Yeshiva College. While he loved his culture and religion growing up, Potok always felt that there was a larger world outside the Jewish one out there that he needed to experience. He documented this in Culture Confrontation in Urban America his very popular essay. He was soon having issues with his Jewish world as he strived to embrace the outside world which he found in music, movies and books that appealed to his senses and his mind.

As a fifteen year old, Chaim Potok read Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” and was mightily impressed. He has asserted that the English novelist reached across the chasm that separated the upper class Catholics from his Jewish world in New York. He still remembers reading the novel to the end and marveling at how creative a work it was. While most people of his religious persuasion would not have looked on kindly at his reading of secular literature, he could not help himself. Other literature that he read at the time included “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce that was a significant influence on his later career as author. By reading secular work,s he challenged what he had been taught and wondered if he could be both an American and Jew simultaneously. Could he live in both a secular and religious culture was the question he asked himself. While he loved his Jewish culture and religion he believed something had to change. Unsurprisingly, he would attend Yeshiva University in New York as he tried to combine Jewish and American ways. It was a college that offered both secular and religious course and he would go on to get his bachelor’s in English literature graduating from the institution in 1950.
After Chaim Potok graduated from Yeshiva University, he went on to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and by 1954 he was ordained as a rabbi. He preferred the institution since while it advocated a conservative approach to Judaism, it was less restrictive when it came to the behaviors and observances. As opposed to Orthodoxy, the Conservative branch believed that change was a feature of Jewish tradition. He would then get his masters from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he studied Hebrew literature. He then worked as a chaplain in the Army serving in Korea in the 1950s before he embarked in a notable publishing and teaching career. By the late 50s, he was professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary and Har Zion Temple’s scholar in residence. He would then be Jewish Publication Society’s editor in chief and Conservative Judaism’s managing editor between 1964 and 1974. During this time, he earned his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania and then began writing his debut novel “The Chosen.” He usually worked on the manuscript in the morning while studying on his PhD during the afternoons.

“The Chosen” by Chaim Potok is the story of two lads that grew up in Williamsburg Brooklyn which is a very Jewish neighborhood in New York. Set in the 1940s, the lead is a high school age lad who was raised by his father after his mother died several years past. His father was a Jewish school teacher and sometimes housekeeper that is a strict orthodox Jew. When he gets injured playing baseball, he befriends a devout Hasidic Jew that is set to inherit his father’s position as a rebbe. He is an exceptional boy and even his father says he is a genius that comes only once in a generation and that he needs to make friends with him. They are both exceptional scholars who outside of school work read three to four books. The Hasidic rebbe believes in silent breeding and never talks to his son unless it is instructing him in Torah lessons. The story follows the two friends through World War II among other troubles. As the narrator heals from the injury he got from baseball, he listens to the D-Day landing news on the radio. In 1945, the was comes to an end and the world starts digesting the horrors of the Holocaust and two years later the nation of Israel is established. The lead becomes a political advocate and fundraiser in support of the establishment of Israel the Jewish state. This causes a rift between the narrator and his friend as most Conservative members of the Hasidic community believe it is blasphemy reestablishing the Jewish state before the return of the Messiah.

“The Promise” by Chaim Potok is the sequel to the first novel of the series “The Chosen.” It is a skillfully woven and laudable novel that takes place in the 1940s setting of Brooklyn New York. At the opening of the novel Jewish student and Reuven Malter who is also the son of David Malter the Talmud commentator is only fifteen years old. All his life has been spent with the Hasidic community that is a radical Orthodox Judaism sect. On the other side of the neighborhood barely five streets away is Danny Saunders who knows nothing of orthodoxy. Saunders is the son of Reb Saunders a Hasidic rabbi and is also a genius. While playing baseball they happen to connect and soon become fast friends which David Malter encourages. The two boys grow together and Reuven comes to learn that all Danny wants is to pass on the duties and responsibilities of rabbi into his brother. If he can do that he can go on to achieve his dream of becoming a psychologist even as Reuven dreams of becoming a rabbi. The novel explores various themes from the effect of the Holocaust, conflicts in Judaism, Hilter and World War II all of which have an impact on the young boys’ lives. Danny’s father and his religion soon take a huge toll on Reuven’s life even as he struggles with his father.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Chaim Potok

One Response to “Chaim Potok”

  1. Linda K Bridges: 2 years ago

    I just finished reading The Chosen and enjoyed it immensely. The Author’s telling of this story is deeply moving, as well as enlightening, helping me, a conservative Christian to better understand this part of Jewish history and Jewish assimilation into the new and challenging times of the 30’s and 40’s in New York. I’m looking forward to reading more of Mr. Potok’s writings. Thank you for this wonderful list of his works and the summary of The Chosen.


Leave a Reply