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The Chosen

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  57,234 ratings  ·  2,811 reviews
"Anyone who finds it is finding a jewel. Its themes are profound and universal."
It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an un
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 12th 1987 by Fawcett (first published 1967)
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DJ Dycus I probably read it 3 or 4 years ago. My favorite of Potok's is The Gift of Asher Lev, just because I like art and art history so much.
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Community Reviews

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May 16, 2008 Madeline rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Madeline by: English teacher
This was required reading for my sophomore-year honors English class; upon reading chapter one, I prepared myself for great disappointment, firstly because the chapter was entirely about baseball (which although I’ve tried to enjoy I can’t seem to get in to, I’m sorry to say), and secondly because it was so descriptive. It was hard to imagine me being interested in something so...flowery (in some time I’ll post a review on another required reading, the oh-so-detailed Great Expectations, which ha ...more
Shayantani Das

I think I might actually end up fulfilling this resolution (unlike most of the others), because “the chosen” was a masterpiece.

It's a poignant story about friendship, father-son relationship, about 2 Jew families on the other side of the Zionist movement and the reaction of American Jews to the horrors of holocaust. It’s about two deeply religious boys, trying to strike a balance between modernity and their deep rooted tradit
Danny Saunders was raised in silence to save his soul. His father saw that his mind was so keen that his soul would be lost if there was not some awful tragedy to break his soul into a living space. So his father raised him in silence, never speaking to him until Danny learned to listen to that silence, to hear in the silence the cry of millions of his people as they were slaughtered, starved, beaten, and experimented upon by Hilter's army. It did not make Danny a rabbi, but it saved his soul in ...more
Aug 14, 2007 Radhika rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the cast of the ringer.
i was litterally gnna shoot myself when reading this boook. i couldnt evn stand it so i decided to buy the audio version on itunes and that was even worse and cost me like 20 dolllaa. i wass like heyllll nawww im not reading dissss but den i did cuzz i kinda had too. its about a jewish nerd who gets hit in the eye when the rivalryy jewish team hits him. they dont like eachother or something i dont know. it was all downhill from there. ysaaaaa heardd???
Jul 05, 2007 Elisabeth rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in history, Judaism, forgiveness or friendship,
My brother Matt suggested this book, and I'm very glad that I read it. (And glad that he was there to fill me in a little more on the history it brings up.) It is very well written, and enjoyable as well as educational. It helped me better understand the Jewish faith and branches of Judaism, the horror of WWII, what is unique about American Jews, and some of the conflict over the Israel as a Jewish state. Leaves you with a warm feeling and lots to think about. "The Talmud says that a person shou ...more
I'm really struggling with how to review this book. It was beautifully written. The relationships between Danny and Reuven and between Reuven and his father were real and touching. I enjoyed learning about different systems of Jewish faith and the interactions (or lack thereof) between their communities. The historic insights into WWII and its aftermath, particularly the realization among American Jews of the extent of the Holocaust and the formation of the state of Israel, were fascinating.

Jul 26, 2008 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fathers, sons, friends
Shelves: fiction
Well, I just finished this book last night and I must say I was deeply moved by the whole experience. I remembered there was a reason I liked it so much back in high school. I love the relationship between the two main characters, Danny and Reuven. They've reminded me that there are definite friendships that I cherish highly, and that true friends are hard to come by. But when they do, you know in your heart that you will never leave them for the rest of your life. I guess after reading this, i ...more
Think you got a great education? Follow these teenage boys as they learn about one another, their faith and their relationship with their fathers. The rigorous studying that they do is foreign to today's youth. A classic in so many ways.
When I told my wife I was reading a book about a Jew, she wasn’t surprised. Most of the books I suggest she read are written by Jews. Why? I don’t know, really. They make great protagonists. The tumultuous history of their people probably contributes to it quite a bit. That and they tend to be funny. Above all else, though, as a people, I think they’re extremely intelligent. The intellectual work that is required of practitioners seems to far surpass those of…well…everyone else. I mean, come on. ...more
Dec 16, 2007 Lucy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
I love how Chaim Potok is able to create a story about so many different things. There are dozens of topics within his books to discuss, enjoy and ponder, but he manages to twist and turn his story, so at its end, you get the Rubik's cube sides all neatly back to the same color.

Like My Name Is Asher Lev, which I loved, Potok writes about a Jewish boy torn between his own genius and his orthodox father's expectations. Danny Saunders, a genius boy with a photographic memory, is destined to take hi
Jul 01, 2007 Alina rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone except immature boys
( immature boys won't be able to understand/appreciate a close and beautiful bond between two heterosexual boys)

I loved this book. I read the Asher Lev books in high school and loved them, but this was great in a whole different way. Explicit (although not too 'in your face') theme of seeing and not seeing, a view of Jewish life and culture in America during and post WWII, and beautiful/touching portrayal of many different types of relationships (with family, friends, and strangers).

The boo
Elliot Ratzman
Today I discussed this all-male book with a small group of all-male max security prisoners. They liked it, fascinated by the details of Jewish life and customs, and were eager to talk about the dynamics between fathers and sons. We had a great conversation about why the first fifth of the book is taken with a description of a baseball game. This is one of the few books I know, and certainly the most popular, that makes Talmud study sexy. One prisoner hoped that the Hasidic Danny and the Modern O ...more
I read this one on a business trip in the NYC area, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's the kind of book I immediately wanted to read again once I finished, but I know I'll have another chance to read another copy ... another day :)

I'm fascinated by the writing in this book. It's compassionate, literate, educated, and also ... contains one of the best bits of sports writing I've ever read
  The second one started to come in shoulder-high, and before it was two thirds of the way to the plate, I was alr
The Jewish Talmud exhorts a man to do two things for himself. First, acquire a teacher. The other is to choose a friend.

Danny Saunders got the package deal when he made the acquaintance of Reuven Malter. Theirs is a Jonathan and David friendship, the two-bodies-with-one-soul type of friendship that happens rarely in a lifetime.

As the oldest son of the tzaddik (righteous leader) of a strict, Hasidic Jewish sect, Danny is the chosen. Upon the death of his father, he will be expected to step up as
Mike Puma
This should be required reading for college courses in Gay Studies/Gay Literature. It is small wonder that Potok's inspiration for writing came from reading Brideshead Revisted. Reuven's narration, particularly the ways he describes Danny, is a virtual textbook case of repressed desire. This repression is consistent with one of the novel's themes: silence.

Having read this book, originally, many years ago, I did not pick up on Reuven's infatuation in the same way I've since come to recognize. In
Also try The Promise, Davita's Harp, and the Asher Lev books. I first read these when I was younger, and I still read them over and over. The relationships in these books are quiet and beautiful, and the stories have a real depth of emotion. Read Chaim Potok now!

However, some people feel differently about this book:

Radhika rated it: 08/14/07

bookshelves: thecrapfrommatergayyyy

recommends it for: the cast of the ringer.

i was litterally gnna shoot myself when reading this boook. i couldnt evn st
What an interesting education I received from this book! I learned so much about the nuances of the Jewish faith and the challenges they faced during and after World War II. I never knew of the Jewish resistance to the Israel state. I also found myself greatly engaged and intrigued by the origins of Hassidic Judaism.

In addition to being extremely fascinating and highly educational, this book caused great reflection for my own life. While we grow to love Ruven and Danny and their fathers and get
I should really give this book five stars. I am just not feeling that generous today, but it is deserving of five stars IMO. Though I read this over four years ago, I continue to think in the reserves of my little brain about the juxtaposition of the two fathers, and their parenting styles. Read the book and then let's discuss: the use of Silence as a teaching tool and as an entire concept to contemplate. How much cruelty can we assign to silence? Is it a choice made out of wisdom at times? Or s ...more
Vomit. I just wasn't really into it. I understood it and stuff, I just think there are better books.
Megan Olsen
A masterpiece. As a member of a religion with varying levels of orthodoxy, and with a range of opinions regarding our place in the world, I found this work incredibly relevant to me, both as a member of a larger religious community and on a personal level. The Latter-day Saint religion shares many similarities with the Jews, including a history of persecution, traditionally insular communities, and an identity tied inseparably to our past. Reuben and Daniel's experiences in grappling with a doct ...more
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Mar 28, 2008 Werner rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone with an interest in serious fiction
Shelves: general-fiction
The central theme of The Chosen is the possible difference between our inherited religious tradition vs. the genuine will of God for our lives; and its central moral question is, how far (if at all) do we have an obligation to let the former define who we can become? Both boys in the book have to grapple with this; it's most obvious for Danny, "chosen" from infancy to succeed his father as a rabbi of the super-orthodox Hasidim, with their almost medieval traditions (a role he's not at all cut ou ...more
Mary Alice
Wow! I enjoyed every word in this book. GREAT writing. Potok held me captive from the first to last sentence. The character development is excellent. I love the tender relationship between Reuven and his father,
and the tense relationship between Danny and his father is palpable. The friendship between Reuven and Danny is well explored. Also, the Jewish history is so interesting. The characters will stay in my mind forever.

Here are two passages I marked:

Reuven's tired father talking to Reuven

Dear Mr. Potek,

You're dead. But since you believe in an afterlife, I feel okay writing to you anyway.

Despite being a finalist for the National Book Award, written about lovingly by critics, lauded across the country and even transferred to the stage, your novel The Chosen is absolute garbage. It is a disgusting attempt to justify child abuse with good intentions and you should be deeply ashamed of yourself for it.

In your book, a father wrecks irreperable harm upon his intellectually gifted son,
Much of my mind's time lately has been spent thinking about teenagers - who they are, why they occupy the place in society they have today, whether or not the role they're given in 2009 accurately reflects what they're capable of, etc., etc. Reading this book in the midst of these turbulent thoughts provided an incredible contrast.

It's easy enough to dismiss Danny as irrelevant to that thought process, because he's a phenomenon. But Reuven . . . what makes and moves a Reuven? Can a parent in 200
My favorite quote from this book:

I learned long ago, Reuven, that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But the eye that blinks, that is something. A span of life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so its quality is immeasurable though its quantity may be insignificant. Do you understand what I am saying? A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life. It is hard work to fill one's life with
I thought it was brilliant. I'm not observant so much of the details of the Hasidim and orthodox ways were new to me. The story of the relationship between the two boys and each boy with his father was excellent. But besides that, I was totally caught up in the tension that built up for the final climax. It was a wonderful story very well told.
This was a re-read for me -- last read probably in 1969 0r 1970. What strikes me now is the description of a lifestyle that has vanished or become part of the great melting pot of America. (And of the quote of one of the boys in my high school English class, when we read this who said on the homogeneity of our society, "America is not a melting pot. It's an acid bath."

Anyhow, the initial part of the book charmed me again, and I found lost in the world of Reuven and Danny, and their unlikely, but
At first I was wondering why this book didn't have an "official" summary/plot, like most books do. Well, a plot summary would not do the book justice. I mean, the book is about a friendship, but (definitely) not your typical, cheesy story. The best plot summary I've found would be from Sonlight homeschooling curriculum.

In 1940s Brooklyn, an accident throws Reuven Malther and Danny Saunders together. Despite their differences (Reuven is a secular Jew with an intellectual, Zionist father; Danny i
I really liked this book. The characters were good - I especially likeed the characterization of Reb Saunders. Though some parts were heavy on the Talmud jargon, even someone whose knowledge of a Jewish lifestyle extends only to going to her friend's bat mitzvah (like me) could enjoy the story immensely for its plot and character interactions.


Upon rereading: I've got to tell everyone about this book.

First of all, my original statement that the characters were "good" will not suffice. The cha
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
The value of silence? 10 158 Dec 12, 2014 10:30AM  
What do you think about Reb Saunders method of teaching his son, Danny? 14 58 Dec 12, 2014 10:26AM  
What to read next? 17 77 Oct 27, 2014 09:30PM  
ROBUST: Matt writes about Potok's The Chosen 4 11 Feb 19, 2014 08:23AM  
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American author and rabbi. Herman Harold Potok was born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrants from Poland.

His parents, Benjamin Max (d. 1958) and Mollie (Friedman) Potok (d. 1985), gave him a Hebrew name, Chaim Tzvi. His Orthodox education taught him Talmud as well as secular studies.

He decided to become a writer as a teenager, after reading Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.
More about Chaim Potok...
My Name Is Asher Lev The Promise The Gift of Asher Lev Davita's Harp In the Beginning

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“I've begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.” 2189 likes
“Human beings do not live forever, Reuven. We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure our lives against eternity. So it may be asked what value is there to a human life. There is so much pain in the world. What does it mean to have to suffer so much if our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye?

I learned a long time ago, Reuven, that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But the eye that blinks, that is something. A span of life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so its quality is immeasurable though its quantity may be insignificant. Do you understand what I am saying? A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life.

It is hard work to fill one's life with meaning. That I do not think you understand yet. A life filled with meaning is worthy of rest. I want to be worthy of rest when I am no longer here.”
More quotes…