Chaim Potok Biography

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The Chosen Author/Context

Dr. Chaim Potok was born February 17, 1929 and raised in New York City by an Orthodox Jewish family. He was an exceptional student and a young writer, beginning his writing career at the age of sixteen. He received his B.A. from Yeshiva University in 1950, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in English literature. He went on to receive a rabbinic ordination in 1954 from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. For sixteen months, between 1955-1957, Potok served as an army chaplain in Korea, with a front-line medical battalion and an engineer combat battalion. In 1957, he became a member of the faculty of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles then went on to spend a year in Israel completing his doctoral dissertation on philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania in 1965.

The Chosen was Potok's first novel, published in 1967. The book was nominated for a National Book Award and received the Edward Lewis Wallant Award. The Chosen, as well most of Potok's other writing, concerns itself with the relationship between Jewish-American culture and the secular world which it inhabits, as well as the differences of beliefs within the Jewish community.

In 1969, Potok released The Promise, a sequel to The Chosen, which won the Athenaeum Prize. He has also written My Name Is Asher Lev (1972), In the Beginning (1975), The Book of Lights (1981), Davita's Harp (1985), The Gift of Asher Lev (1990), and I Am the Clay (1992), as well as numerous books of essays, plays, and religious writings.

In 1981, The Chosen was made into a movie by director Jeremy Paul Kagan, in which Potok had a cameo role as a professor. Dr. Chaim Potok died in 2002.


Potok, Chaim. The Chosen. New York: Ballantine, 1967.

Chaim Potok: Novelist, Philosopher, Historian, Theologian, Playwright, Artist, Editor. 13 June 2002.

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