Chaim Potok dies at the age of 73

Yahoo News (www.yahoo.com) reports that Chaim Potok, the great Jewish philosopher and writer, has died at the age of 73.

Chaim Potok, Novelist, Philosopher, Theologian, Playwright, Artist and Rabbi February 17, 1929 -July 23, 2002
Chaim Potok, the distinguished author and scholar whose novels portrayed a vivid insider's view of Orthodox Jewish life in the United States, died on Tuesday at his home near Philadelphia, his family said. He was 73. The cause of death was brain cancer, a disease he had been fighting for several years.

The author of nearly 20 books, the bearded and sometimes erudite Potok was best known for a 1967 novel, "The Chosen," that described a friendship between the son of a Hasidic rabbi and a more secular Jewish boy in 1940s Brooklyn, New York.

"Dawson Speaks" has a great quote from Chaim Potok:

"...But Israel is warmth for Jews everywhere, despite the failures and disappointments felt when dreams are soiled by the muck of reality and the weakness of human beings. What a price we have paid for that land; seven thousand killed in the War of Independence; another thousand killed in the 1956 Sinai Campaign and the 1967 Six-Day War; three thousand killed in the October 1973 War; hundreds killed by terrorist raids. We offer ourselves grim consolation: all the wars have cost us less than three days at Auschwitz.

In the past few years I have wandered back and forth across the oceans. Everywhere I go I meet Jews passionate with pride in Israel. They fear for her, tremble when her people are hurt, support her, and are not yet certain what sort of nation-state they wish her to be, are concerned about the drain upon creative energies and the coarsening of moral fiber caused by endless military vigilance, and are dazed with disbelief and joy over an achievement like Entebbe. From Auschwitz to Entebbe in a single generation.

Yes, most of the gentle Jews are gone. Yes, the Jew is now solidly inside the affairs of the world. Yes, we are aware of the resonance of hate that lingers like a stench upon western civilization. Yes, we will continue to be the other, to hold our own view of things. Yes, we are a single people, capable of loving our seperate lands as well as Israel---as one is able to love a mother and a father. Yes, there will be peace one day. Yes, we will renew our people. Yes, we touch millennia of precious history when we walk the streets of Jerusalem, and climb the hills, and journey through the sand wastes of the land. Yes, there are flowers to plant, seedlings to nurture, young trees to tend, old earth to nourish, and a new earth to put it in---a garden of new dreams to bring forth, to add to our old covenants and messianic hopes, and to offer to ourselves and to our broken and beloved world.

Yes."

If you haven't already, please read "The Chosen" and "My Name Is Asher Lev" - these books shook me to my bones when I was a teenager.

I copy the full article from Yahoo news below - click here for more information on Chaim Potok.





Potok, U.S. Author of 'The Chosen,' Dies at 73
Yahoo News, July 23 2002
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?
tmpl=story2&cid=638&ncid=762&e=2&
u=/nm/20020723/en_nm/people_potok_dc_10

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Chaim Potok, the distinguished author and scholar whose novels portrayed a vivid insider's view of Orthodox Jewish life in the United States, died on Tuesday at his home near Philadelphia, his family said.

He was 73. The cause of death was brain cancer, a disease he had been fighting for several years.

The author of nearly 20 books, the bearded and sometimes erudite Potok was best known for a 1967 novel, "The Chosen," that described a friendship between the son of a Hasidic rabbi and a more secular Jewish boy in 1940s Brooklyn, New York.

"A lot of the emotional force behind his books comes from the tug between secularism and orthodoxy. It was deep in him, and so it resonates deeply in his work," said Robert Gottlieb, Potok's longtime editor at Alfred A. Knopf and former editor-in-chief of the New Yorker magazine.

"For many, many Jewish readers, he essentially expressed their own conflicts, their own resolutions, their own explorations of their Jewish backgrounds," he told Reuters.

"The Chosen," which elevated Potok to literary fame and became a Hollywood movie in 1981, was followed by a sequel entitled "The Promise" in 1969. Potok returned to the subject of Hasidism for a third time in 1972 with "My Name is Asher Lev," the story of a young artist.

Potok was the first American author to present Orthodox and Hasidic Judaism in popular fiction written from the standpoint of a sympathetic insider, said David Stern, director of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, where Potok earned a doctorate in philosophy and taught as an adjunct professor.

His empathetic view of Orthodox life set Potok apart from authors such as Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and Bernard Malamud, American Jews who treated the subject of religious Judaism as cool and at times sardonic outsiders.

"His work was a real landmark in the Americanization of Judaism and also in the Judaizing of American culture," Stern said. "'The Chosen' begins with a famous baseball scene, with modern Orthodox and Hasidic kids playing baseball against each other, which sums it all up. It could only happen in America."

OTHER TALENTS

Potok went on to become an accomplished oil painter and photographer, wrote books for children and teen-agers, and also became a playwright.

His most recent book, "Old Men at Midnight," was published in October.

The author was born Herman Harold Potok in 1929 in the Bronx section of New York to an Orthodox couple who had emigrated from Poland. They gave him the Hebrew name, Chaim Tvzi, and sent him to religious schools.

In 1950, he graduated summa cum laude from Yeshiva University with a degree in English literature and was ordained as a Conservative rabbi in 1954 after attending Jewish Theological Seminary.

He served as a chaplain and first lieutenant in the U.S. Army in Korea from 1955 to 1957 and later moved to Philadelphia to study philosophy. Potok remained in Philadelphia, serving as editor-in-chief of the Jewish Publication Society until he and his family moved to Israel for several years in the mid-1970s.

Potok said one of his first exciting literary experiences was reading Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited," which deals with a Roman Catholic family of English aristocrats. He was also influenced by James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway.

Asked about being referred to as a Jewish American writer, Potok once said he preferred to be described as "an American writer writing about a small and particular American world."

Younger Jewish American writers including Rebecca Goldstein, Allegra Goodman and Nathan Englander have since taken on the religious subjects that Potok introduced.

In later years, Potok traveled widely as a lecturer and maintained an active religious life through his synagogue.

"He was a very active and esteemed member of our community," said Sharon Stunacher, executive director of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El.

He is survived by his wife Adena, two daughters, a son and two grandchildren.

Posted by David Melle
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