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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 unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again. . . .

304 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1966

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About the author

Chaim Potok

44 books1,388 followers
Herman Harold Potok, or Chaim Tzvi, was born in Buffalo, New York, to Polish immigrants. He received an Orthodox Jewish education. After reading Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited as a teenager, he decided to become a writer. He started writing fiction at the age of 16. At age 17 he made his first submission to the magazine The Atlantic Monthly. Although it wasn't published, he received a note from the editor complimenting his work.

In 1949, at the age of 20, his stories were published in the literary magazine of Yeshiva University, which he also helped edit. In 1950, Potok graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English Literature.

After four years of study at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America he was ordained as a Conservative rabbi. He was appointed director of Leaders Training Fellowship, a youth organization affiliated with Conservative Judaism.

After receiving a master's degree in English literature, Potok enlisted with the U.S. Army as a chaplain. He served in South Korea from 1955 to 1957. He described his time in S. Korea as 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 Orthodox synagogues at home.

Upon his return, he joined the faculty of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles and became the director of a Conservative Jewish summer camp affiliated with the Conservative movement, Camp Ramah. A year later he began his graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and was appointed scholar-in-residence at Temple Har Zion in Philadelphia.

In 1963, he spent a year in Israel, where he wrote his doctoral dissertation on Solomon Maimon and began to write a novel.

In 1964 Potok moved to Brooklyn. He became the managing editor of the magazine Conservative Judaism and joined the faculty of the Teachers’ Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary. The following year, he was appointed editor-in-chief of the Jewish Publication Society in Philadelphia and later, chairman of the publication committee. Potok received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1970, Potok relocated to Jerusalem with his family. He returned to Philadelphia in 1977. After the publication of Old Men at Midnight, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He died at his home in Merion, Pennsylvania on July 23, 2002, aged 73.

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Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,073 reviews6,794 followers
February 18, 2018
The book jacket tells us that this was the first book (published 1967) that introduced Jewish culture to a wide American audience.

The story centers around two boys growing up in the Jewish neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn in New York City of the 1940’s. The main character is a high-school aged boy who lost his mother years ago and is raised by his father, a teacher at a Jewish school, and a housekeeper. They are devout Orthodox Jews.

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Due to a baseball injury, he makes friends with another devout Jewish boy who is a Hasidic Jew, destined to inherit his father’s position as a rebbe (tzaddik). The boy is so exceptional – the main character’s father says he has a mind that is seen once in a generation -- that the father encourages him to befriend the boy. Both boys are exceptional scholars. In addition to going to school from 6 am to 6 pm and then coming home to do hours of homework they manage to read 3 or 4 books of outside reading each week. The Hasidic rebbe raises his son “in silence” – never talking to him outside the context of Torah lessons.

We follow the two boys through various troubles. World War II enters into the story. As the boy recovers from his sports injury to his eye in the hospital, he listens to radio news about the D-Day landing. The war ends in 1945, news of the horrors of the Holocaust is absorbed by the community, and shortly after (1947) Israel is founded. The main character’s father becomes a fund-raiser and a political advocate supporting the establishment of the Jewish state. This causes a rift between the boys because some members of the Hassidic community thought it was blasphemy to re-establish Israel prior to the coming of the Messiah.

Interspersed with the plot, the book gives us details of other differences between Orthodox Jews and Hasidic Jews. The latter culture grew out of the Eastern European Jewish tradition (Ashkenazi) after the mass atrocities committed by Cossacks against the Jews, known as the Chmielnicki uprising. This took place in Poland in the 1600’s.

The community was so devastated (100,000 killed) that its faith was impacted. False messiahs and mysticism appeared (which generated the Kabballah). Non-sensical scholarship (pilpul, which reminds me of ‘how many angels on the head of a pin’ in the Christian tradition) was pursued by some. The tzaddiks evolved – rebbes of inherited position who are so revered that their followers want to touch them. Another permutation of the faith was gematria – assigning numerical values to letters and words in the Torah and searching for multiple meanings through what outsiders would call numerology.

We follow the boys as they mature, and they don’t necessarily fall into the paths expected of them.

This is a good read. The author does a good job of interspersing the cultural and historical details into the narrative so that it remains a novel, not a sociological text. (I should add that many of the words I’ve used in this review have alternate spellings from those used in the edition I read.)

photo of Chasidim in Williamsburg from vosizneias.com
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,099 reviews1,586 followers
September 5, 2022
PARLARE COL SILENZIO



Storia di una grande amicizia tra due ragazzi che devono compiere sedici anni – ma c’è poca adolescenza in loro, nel carattere sono già alquanto adulti – nata nel peggiore dei modi – un incidente di gioco, il gioco è il baseball, nel quale l’io narrante Reuven (Robert) rischia di perdere un occhio – amicizia che si sviluppa e diventa solida nonostante le differenze religiose: entrambi ebrei, ma più “aperto” il narratore, rinchiuso nel chassidismo Danny, che è eletto perché destinato a diventare rabbino, carica che in quella corrente dell’ebraismo si tramanda per via familiare – infatti rabbino è suo padre, lo è stato suo nonno, e più su per altre tre o quattro generazioni.





Dopo un lungo capitolo iniziale, magistrale per come il baseball e le sue per me incomprensibili regole s’intrecciano con i due ragazzi e con il loro rapporto che come dicevo inizia male - agonismo che diventa antagonismo, i due sono i leader delle rispettive squadre scolastiche – un gesto forse di violenza intenzionale che poteva essere evitata se Danny non avesse colpito la palla con quel colpo maligno e se Reuven si fosse scansato invece di fermare la palla ribattuta, intercettata un po’ con la mano e molto con l’occhio - la storia evolve presto verso la nascita di un legame tra i due, con Danny che va in ospedale a trovare il “rivale”, a scusarsi e iniziare la conoscenza.



Molto presto sono coinvolti i rispettivi padri, rabbino intransigente quello di Danny, studioso e insegnante più aperto e illuminato quello di Reuven, che con suo figlio parla tanto e comunica in modo sincero, diretto e affettuoso, mentre il rabbino ha scelto di “parlare col silenzio” a Danny, tranne quando sono impelagati in lunghe e cervellotiche tenzoni sulle interpretazioni del Talmud.
Altra sostanziale differenza tra i due è che il padre di Danny aspetta il Messia e rifiuta energicamente uno Stato d’Israele governato da ebrei goyim, quello di Reuven ha deciso che non si può più aspettare ed è attivo nel movimento sionista americano.


Maximilian Schell è il padre di Reuven.

Ma Danny si sente in gabbia: forse si sente tarpato dal chassidismo, visto che è così affascinato da Freud, studia psicanalisi (e psicologia evolutiva), ha perfino imparato da autodidatta il tedesco per poterlo leggere in originale – sicuramente limitato dal suo ruolo di eletto e prescelto (The Chosen il titolo originale), e volentieri lascerebbe a suo fratello minore, purtroppo di salute cagionevole, l’investitura di futuro rabbino.
Reuven – al quale Potok dedica anche il suo secondo romanzo The Promise – La scelta di Reuven – sì, secondo, perché questo è il suo esordio – sembra invece meno inquieto e combattuto, e perfino più determinato – ha scelto di diventare rabbino, nonostante il padre preferirebbe avviarlo alla ricerca e all’insegnamento - ama la matematica e si immerge con gioia nella logica simbolica, che alla prima è intrecciata.


Rod Steiger è il rabbino padre di Danny.

Meglio essere pronti a una full immersion nel mondo e nella cultura ebraica - in particolare quella degli ortodossi di Williamsburg a Brooklyn - con tutte le differenze tra la corrente chassidica e un approccio alla religione meno rigido, con ampi squarci di storia, in particolare il secondo conflitto bellico mondiale, l’avanzata alleata, la fine dei combattimenti, la scoperta tremenda dell’entità della Shoah, che devasta il cuore di chassidici ed ebrei in generale, pronti a farsi carico di ricostruire cultura e comunità giudaica in terra d’America. Il racconto continua ancora per qualche anno (dal1944 al 1948), porta i due ragazzi dal liceo al college, la Palestina diventa Stato di Israele (della Nakba neanche un accenno)…
Meglio prepararsi a lunghi squarci di argomenti di cultura varia, dalla matematica alla storia alla filosofia.
E meglio prepararsi a non incontrare donne: le poche che compaiono sono appena più che tappezzeria, e probabilmente la più presente è la governante a mezzo servizio di casa di Reuven, figlio unico e orfano di madre. Il mondo è degli uomini: padri e figli maschi.
Il finale scatena commozione, credo sia difficile evitarla.


Danny l’eletto.
Profile Image for Greta G.
337 reviews231 followers
December 4, 2019
"This is a man's world
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing, not one little thing, without a woman or a girl
He's lost in the wilderness
He's lost in bitterness, he's lost lost"

(James Brown, of course)

This must have been one of the most solemn books I've ever read.
It's a poignant story about two teenagers, Reuven and Danny, who grow up in Jewish Orthodox families in Brooklyn, during the period between the end of the second world war and the creation of Israel.
Reuven is a Modern Orthodox Jew, and his friend Danny is raised in a Hasidic family.
The author explores their friendship, the relationships with their fathers, and the struggle between faith and secularity; Modern Orthodox and Hasidic beliefs.

These boys’ lives seem to revolve around the study of the Talmud and orthodox scholarship, and there are extensive passages about it in the book. To my surprise, I quite enjoyed reading this as it immersed me in a world of logical reasoning and critical thinking, which to me have always seemed incompatible with the study of any religious texts, without losing your faith.

Zionism is also a theme the book touches upon, in particular the radically different views within the Jewish communities.

The story is told in a rather straightforward style, and has a sad tone throughout. I believe it were this tone and writing style that prevented me from really loving the book, although it’s not always clear why I liked a book, but didn’t love it.

The book immerses the reader not only in a fundamentalist atmosphere, but also in a man's world, in which women are almost totally absent. This book at least offers women a glimpse in these men’s peculiar world.

"You ought to get yourself a girl, it's a wonderful tonic for a suffering soul"
This was by far the best advice Reuven gave to his friend Danny.

7/10
Profile Image for Alisa.
88 reviews22 followers
November 25, 2008
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 the end. It gave him the ears of a psychologist as he could listen to that silence.

As I read this, I kept thinking about how God has raised us in silence. We are only allowed communication with him in certain ways, through rituals, through scripture. All else is silence. In this silence, we long for a closer relationship. We suffer. We hold respect for God and the methods used for communication. And in that silence, we hear the suffering of the world, of each child that dies every five seconds of hunger. We hear that silence, and, I hope, it gives us a heart.
Profile Image for Katie Hanna.
Author 6 books102 followers
June 27, 2017
I'm 23 years old and I've been reading for most of the time I've been alive.

In all those years of reading, I can recall openly sobbing on only two occasions.

The first time was in Little Women, when Beth March died.

And the second time was in The Chosen, when Reb Saunders said this:

"In the silence between us, he began to hear the world crying."
Profile Image for Quo.
275 reviews
May 18, 2022
Chaim Potok's 1967 novel, The Chosen, mostly set during WWII, is a fascinating study of two families, linked by ethnic roots, religion & geography but still held at a considerable distance from each other.



At the center of the novel are Danny Saunders & Reuven Malther, both Orthodox Jewish boys of the same age living in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, a very diverse, polyglot area of New York but with intensely self-contained pockets of families defined in critical ways by the specific synagogue or church they attend.

And what could be a more democratic, all-American way to bring the two lads together than the game of baseball, except that these two teams seem to taunt one another from the sidelines, with Danny's ultra-Orthodox, Hasidic team regarding their somewhat less Orthodox opponents as only marginally Jewish, calling them apicorsim or apostate Jews & as such, a threat to their way of regarding the world, marked by a much stricter code of dress, behavior & interpretation of the Talmud, the foundational book of Judaism.

The Hasidic team also speaks Yiddish rather than English, being far more protective of their particular way of life in a country that seems to pride itself on the erasure of formal differences. But when Reuven pitches & is struck by a batted baseball hit by Danny, breaking Reuven's glasses & imperiling his eye with broken glass, the two boys become rather dramatically connected in what will eventually become a lifelong bond.



Both Danny & Reuven are gifted students, attending the same school but different synagogues & yet both boys are driven to expand their own quite separate universes, with a public library being another point of commonality for them. As Danny delves into Freud & psychology, Reuven keenly explores symbolic logic.

Throughout the novel, while both Danny & Reuven study the Talmud to the exclusion of most everything else, for both boys are the sons of rabbis & expected to follow their fathers in that path, Reuven is given far greater flexibility to expand his mind, while Danny is very circumscribed by Hasidism & its traditions, including having had his wife chosen for him ages ago.

Added to that, Danny's father is a tzaddik, an exceedingly righteous spiritual leader, from many generations of such rabbis, afforded great authority & almost magical powers within his Hasidic congregation. As the bond grows between the boys after Reuven forgives Danny for seeming to intentionally injure him with a batted baseball, they discuss their dreams, with Danny's future much more rigidly defined...
I have no choice. It's like a dynasty & if the son doesn't take his father's place, the dynasty falls apart. My family has been our Hasidic people's rabbi for 6 generations & I can't just walk out on them now. I'm a little trapped. Danny turned away from the window & began to play with his earlock (braided hair), caressing it & twirling it with his index finger.

Then he shook his head & declared that the world was a crazy place because while Reuven doesn't have to be a rabbi but wants to be one, Danny has to become a rabbi but doesn't want to be one.
Throughout the novel, Reuven's father is a source of consolation & guidance for his son, while Danny's father is marked by rigidity, only willing to speak with his son about the Talmud. Nevertheless, the two boys continue to share confidences & to support each other, at least until they are midway through a Brooklyn rabbinic college that also allows courses in science, with the Talmud studied from 9 until 3 & the afternoon devoted to "secular" courses.

There is a very memorable scene inside Danny's synagogue, with his father, Rebe Saunders, avidly testing his son & rabbi-in-training on the Talmud in the midst of the congregation, with Reuven having been invited to attend the evening gathering but feeling rather like an alien in their presence.

The sense of distance was palpable for Reuven, especially with the male members having blocked the steps to the synagogue, allowing him to enter only because Danny took his arm, causing the other Hasidic members to part in a wave, almost akin to the Red Sea suddenly allowing a pathway.

However, after WWII & the extent of the Holocaust comes to light, the issue of the creation of the state of Israel causes the 2 families to come to an impasse, with Reuven's father manifestly Zionist and Danny's father contending that there can be no Israel until the Messiah comes to lead the Jewish nation, not a secular leader, a "Jewish goy" like Ben Gurion. At this point, Danny is forbidden to even speak to Reuven.



The Chosen is a tightly-paced, wonderfully sensitive novel about both transitions & transformations that are at times subtle & at other times almost revolutionary for the two boys, as well as their families. Additionally, it is a novel that speaks of the importance of forgiveness & reconciliation.

And it also considers the value of silence, as when Danny confides in Reuven, bewildering his friend by stating that, unlike other rabbis, the role of a tzaddik is to know how to silently carry the weight of pain on his shoulders, embodying the suffering of his people...
There's more truth in this than you realize. You must learn to listen to silence, Reuven. I've begun to realize that you can listen to silence & learn from it. It has a quality & a dimension all its own. It talks to me sometimes. I feel myself alive in it. It talks & has a strange, beautiful texture. Sometimes it cries & you can hear the pain of the world in it. It hurts to listen to it then. But you have to.
I won't in any way reveal how The Chosen concludes but Chaim Potok's deeply expressive & highly recommended novel points to the importance of tradition but also the need for children to be allowed to create their own narratives in life, sometimes quite at odds with the ones their parents envision, a very American book but one with qualities that seem universal.

*While I was previously aware of the novel, it was especially recommended by Prof. Barry Wimpfheimer as a part of an Adult Education course on the Talmud that I recently took part in at Northwestern University. And in some very important ways, the novel seems to parallel some aspects of Prof. Wimpfheimer's life, as shared with his class.

**Photo images within the review include the author, Chaim Potok; 2 Jewish lads in the midst of a baseball game (one Hasidic, the other not); & lastly, Hasidic schoolboys in Brooklyn.
Profile Image for Emilio Berra.
220 reviews170 followers
February 26, 2018
Essere figli. Essere padri

Questo bellissimo romanzo è la storia di un'amicizia fra due ragazzi. Vi è però molto di più : il rapporto di due figli coi rispettivi padri; il fronteggiarsi di due diverse concezioni e tradizioni pur all'interno della stessa religione ebraica...
Le vicende si svolgono a New York, nel quartiere dove gli ebrei immigrati dall'Europa hanno ricostituito le loro comunità.
Il periodo è compreso tra gli ultimi anni della Seconda Guerra Mondiale e i fatti successivi alla proclamazione dello Stato di Israele nel '48. Il momento storico è cruciale: l'olocausto in Europa; la comunità ebraica in America che si sente l'unica rimasta indenne, quindi responsabile di rappresentare anche chi non c'è più. Poi il Movimento sionista per la riedificazione di uno Stato ebraico in zona mediorientale, con il fronteggiarsi di due diverse posizioni: chi agisce a favore del progetto e chi vi si oppone per il timore, in caso di riuscita, di una gestione ormai non in linea con le tradizioni originarie ma protesa ad una mentalità sostanzialmente laica, 'americanizzata' .

La parte preponderante del libro, e comunque sempre presente, riguarda però l'aspetto relazionale/affettivo : Potok delinea grandi figure di padri, per i quali l'educazione dei figli è questione di rilevantissima importanza. Aleggia poi fra le pagine un grande senso di rispetto per le opinioni altrui e soprattutto per chi le esprime. Si vive con forti valori ("L'uomo deve colmare la sua vita di significato") ; c'è poi una tensione all'approfondimento capace di sorprendere chi mentalmente avesse già emesso giudizi stando alla superficie delle questioni. Lezioni di vita anche per chi, come noi, si sente distante da quel mondo rappresentato.

Il libro presenta una struttura a cui solo le opere grandissime possono aspirare : nulla di troppo, nulla di troppo poco. In più si respira un'atmosfera di accoglienza che consola e dà speranza : anche il dolore talvolta può essere un percorso necessario di crescita.
Si tratta di un testo per certi aspetti sapienziale, da cui si esce arricchiti e maggiormente riconciliati con se stessi e con gli altri.

E' importante sapere che le vicende proseguono in un libro successivo almeno altrettanto bello : "La scelta di Rewen".



Profile Image for Poiema.
446 reviews64 followers
November 21, 2015
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 head of the dynasty. Thus his father, the brilliant but eccentric Reb Saunders, focuses his full attention upon the proper upbringing of his son.

But what is a proper upbringing for a genius? Listen to the agonizing dilemma of Danny's father:

"A man is born into this world with only a tiny spark of goodness in him. The spark is God, it is the soul; the rest is ugliness and evil, a shell. The spark must be guarded like a treasure, it must be nurtured, it must be fanned into flame. {Snip} Anything can be a shell....anything. Indifference, laziness, brutality, and genius. Yes, even a great mind can be a shell and choke the spark.

Reuven, the Master of the Universe blessed me with a brilliant son. And he cursed me with all the problems of raising him. Ah, what it is to have a brilliant son! Not a smart son, Reuven, but a brilliant son, a Daniel, a boy with a mind like a jewel. Ah, what a curse it is, what an anguish it is to have a Daniel, whose mind is like a pearl, like a sun. Reuven, when my Daniel was four years old, I saw him reading a story from a book. And I was frightened. he did not read the story, he swallowed it, as one swallows food or water. There was no soul in my four-year-old Daniel, there was only his mind. He was a mind in a body without a soul. It was a story in a Yiddish book about a poor Jew and his struggles to get to Eretz Yisroel before he died. Ah, how that man suffered! And my Daniel enjoyed the story, he enjoyed the last terrible page, because when he finished it he realized for the first time what a memory he had. He looked at me proudly and told me back the story from memory, and I cried inside my heart. I went away and cried to the Master of the Universe, 'What have you done to me? A mind like this I need for a son? A heart I need for a son, a soul I need for a son, compassion I want from my son, righteousness, mercy, strength to suffer and carry pain, that I want from my son, not a mind without a soul!"



Reb Saunders makes a very unusual choice for his son. He chooses to raise him in silence. Except for weekly dialogue over the Talmud and Torah, no words pass between father and son. Though it seems cruel, it is the father's best hope that the suffering it creates will fan into flame that spark of a soul that lies within Danny.

Reuven becomes the counter-balance for Danny's relationship with his father. As a more liberal Jew, Reuven is able to bring a rational element into an otherwise emotionally volatile situation. Without their friendship, it is easy to see that Danny would crumple either from rage or simply from the heavy load of expectation he carries as a burden.

Ultimately, Reb Saunders can claim at least partial victory for his son's upbringing. Danny will break the the multi-generational traditions of his ancestors; he will not step into the chosen role of Tzaddik. Rather, he will be a "tzaddik for the world", a different kind of a healer in his chosen field of psychology. But he will remain a practicing Jew, a man with a soul in whom the spark of life burns brightly.

I loved this book. It was fascinating to look behind the scenes at the traditions of the most orthodox sect of Judaism. The Jews have remained a people apart, separate from the nations. This story gives a glimpse of the challenges they incurred as a people group after WWII. The struggle was to keep their traditions intact, but at the same time to acclimate to their new home country of America. Rich, rich, rich. I have scouted out two others by the same author The Promise, which is a sequel to The Chosen, and My Name is Asher Lev, which some feel is Chaim Potok's best work.
12 reviews2 followers
August 15, 2007
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???
Profile Image for Vishakha.
37 reviews108 followers
June 27, 2021
I came across this book in a “must-read” list and then luckily, saw it in a second-hand bookshop that I love visiting. Literature spun around the world wars has been my all-time favourite read; I find that the experiences born from human tragedies of this magnitude are honest and deeply affecting.

The Chosen takes you through the journey of two teenage boys, Reuven and Danny, growing up in Brooklyn during the Second World War. They belong to different Jewish sects because of which their religious practices and even their family lives are poles apart -- the book focuses on and in a way compares their contrasting paternal relationships. As these factors contribute in shaping their religious identities and personalities, they try to strike a balance between traditional family values and modernity in the world around them. The quiet strength of their friendship helps them to deal with the pressures of life and maintain their sanity in the face of the enormity and the hopelessness of war.

It is not easy to empathize with people whose backgrounds and motives we don’t comprehend. And even if we are aware of their reasons, we are usually not ready to see things from a different vantage point. This rings especially true when those people are conservative or follow orthodox religious practices. We dismiss their “peculiar behaviour” by attributing it to a limited world-view and an unprogressive attitude. Nevertheless, unlike some of us (including me), Reuven Malter, with his open heart, understands and accepts Danny’s world and becomes a part of it. And just like Reuven, this book quietly takes a place in your heart with its simplicity and gentleness. 

“The Chosen” reminded me how important is the freedom of choice which we have (or not) and may take for granted, be it the freedom (not) to follow tradition, practice religion or pursue a career. Individual fulfillment should be the most important consideration in making such decisions. Sadly, some of us do not have the luxury of choosing. 

Amongst the many lessons that I will take away from this book, the most important one for me is that a good heart is far more valuable than a brilliant mind, and we should take utmost care to sow in it the seeds of love and compassion. I could do with a little less of Talmud discussions between the Saunders and Reuben, but they don’t hamper the pace of reading as they are woven into the story. Overall, I really liked the book and will not mind reading it once again.
Profile Image for John Hatley.
1,152 reviews182 followers
August 19, 2020
This is one of the saddest and, at the same time, most beautiful books I have ever read. It is a story of the friendship between two very different Jewish boys growing up in Brooklyn. It is also a story of the relationships between fathers and sons. Although the story is fictional, it provides an introduction to the history of Jews in Europe and even briefly touches on the very early days of the modern state of Israel.
It is a story and a book that I shall never forget.
Profile Image for Jessaka.
853 reviews100 followers
September 19, 2018
Chaim Potok says in his foreword to the book that he wanted to write “an encompassing metaphor. How to make a unity of such disparate entitles—the war in Europe, a childhood eye injury, the mesmerizing quality and dark menace of certain books, Freud, religion, psychology, mathematical logic, sacred texts, scientific text criticism, Zionism, the Holocaust.”

In that he did a great job. The book was beautiful and memorable. It teaches history and a few life lessons, but overall, I found it tedious, boring. I continued reading it because the story will last in my mind, and I knew that I could never consider that it was not a great novel.

A rabbi teaches his son, Danny, the Talmud but otherwise never speaks to him. It is the Hasidic way to teach. The silence causes suffering, but it is through this suffering that he is to learn compassionate and how to find his own answers in life. This is true. In my own life the silence from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the shunning, caused me suffering, but out of that I learned to have compassion for others who suffered and are suffering. Finding my own answers in life, well, maybe there are no real answers, but that is now okay.

Then there is the boy Reuven, whose father is a teacher that studies the Talmud with him, but they are Orthodox Jews. Reuven’s relationship with his father is one of admiration because his father is approachable, warm, and kind towards him; it contrasts with Danny’s own relationship with his dad.

The relationship between the fathers and sons, and between the boys, made this story work somewhat for me. Still, I didn’t want to read a blow by blow account of a baseball game that lasted throughout entire first chapter, nor did I like hospital stories which took up a few more chapters.

I thought after the baseball game, and then the hospital stay that the book would pick up, but then Danny was interested in psychology, mainly Freud. I had lost interest in psychology after 3 college courses, and I continued to lose interest in it when some of the Jewish men that I had dated back then wanted to analyze me. Maybe they became psychologists and don’t have to use dates for their case studies, but I understand that they still can’t stop analyzing their family members. So by now, as I am reading this book, I am irritated with it and an thinking of my women Jewish friends who I knew back then, who, when they would hear something that they didn’t like, said, “Oy vey.” I silently screamed, “Oy vey” over and over again.

So while Danny wanted to become a psychologist, his father wanted him to become a rabbi. He was depressed over this but Freud’s thoughts on the human condition depressed him even more. Psychology can do that, but religion can as well. I considered him stuck between a rock and a hard place.

And so yes, there was religion, the long lessons that each boy had to learn when their fathers taught them the Talmud. They learned it inside and out, and my own mind was screaming inside and out, yet I also knew that this way of learning could be applied to other curriculums. It is just that have grown sick of religion over the years, over my own struggles to find answers in life. I am sick of the shunning that goes on in them, of the righteousness, of believing that your religion is right and all others can go to hell or wherever their lack of faith takes them.

I wanted to read a book about Jewish boys growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., but I didn’t want to read one that was academic. I thought more along the lines of their playing, not baseball, but in the creeks catching pollywogs. I also thought more along the line of their stealing apples out of a fruit stand that was outside of a store. But then I thought about my own Jewish friends who were in college, and none of us where interested in anything other than college, and well, men. We were past the age of pollywogs, but as I grew older I came back to the pollywogs.

As I read this book I saw how the American Jews reacted to the end of WWII when they learned that 6 million Jews had been murdered with many being gassed and then burned in incinerators. My mind went back to two weeks ago when my husband and I were driving past a funeral home, and the smoke was coming out of the chimney of the crematorium; I cringed, thinking of those gas chambers in Auschwitz. I thought how uncivilized it was and how horrible to have it at the edge of our town. Maybe there is a reason that hell is beneath the earth.

Then I went back to thinking of how Danny’s father reacted to the fact that some of his family was murdered during the holocaust, and how he became depressed and emotionally disturbed, which lead me to thinking of how close Jewish ties were and still are, and I thought of how I didn’t relate to any one race or religion, but that I mourned for the world, but also I feel that doing so has never affected me as much as it did them; it is too scattering, because there isn’t that same sense of loss that you have with a family, with a close knit culture. Yet we must care for everyone and not limit ourselves.

And as the years went by in my own life, as I learned more about humankind, I grew to believe that there is nothing that man cannot and will not do to another human being once he considers him his enemy. I learned how it doesn’t make much to turn a friend, a family member, or even a group of people into the enemy. But both religion and politics divides us like this, and other expectations do as well, and there is probably no way to get around it. Still, I have to hold on to the belief that some men will never change; they will always remain humane.

Now, American politics reminds me of how Hitler came to power, and while I still read non-fiction books, when things get too heavy in regards to the news, I like to pick up a book about childhood memories; it is my own therapy. This book was not therapy.

I think of how Americans, according to an article in the Aarp Magazine, are having health problems due to the news, and those who need therapy don’t talk about their own problems in therapy, they just talk about Trump. But America, outside of the men and women in the military, has not faced war in their homeland since the Civil War, and I know that some Americans fear that this can happen here, or that our world will just be blown up. They don’t know what real fear feels like, yes, they know of the sleepless nights, of the worry, but they don’t understand the suffering. No one does that has not experienced it.
Profile Image for Mike.
475 reviews368 followers
February 22, 2016
At its core The Chosen is about the relationship between two Brooklyn boys Danny and Reuven, the world they grow up in, and their relationship with their fathers. Both are Jewish, but while they share the same faith, they belong to radically different portions of that faith. Danny is Hasidic. What's more he is the son of a Rebbe and expected to take up the mantle with the passing of his father. Reuven, on the other hand, is part of modern Orthodox Judaism and is the son of a Talmudic teacher.

While growing up mere blocks from each other they do not cross paths until a baseball game brings them together... and then sends Reuven to the hospital when Danny slams a line drive into Reuven's face, breaking his glasses and sending glass into his eye. So, not the best foot for a relationship to get off on. Danny visits Reuven in the hospital and while Reuven is initially hostile to Danny his father convinces him to give Danny and chance and they begin to become friends.

The relationship between the two boys blossoms as they grow up. We discover Danny is brilliant, with a once in a generation mind who fears being trapped into the role of his people's Rebbe. His father only speaks to him when they discuss the Talmud and forbids him from reading world book such as Freud and Darwin. Reuven, while still very smart, is much more mathematically inclined than Danny. In spite of their differences they become great friends, spending many evenings and Sabbaths together. In the background WWII is coming to a close and the horrors of the Holocaust are being reveled.

This leads to the big clash in the book, Zionism. Immediately post-WWII, when the full horrors that had been visited on the Jews was made widely known there was a resurgence in Zionism, specifically a homeland in British Palestine. While many Jews were in favor of a return to their historic homeland, the more religious ones (such as Edah HaChareidis) thought that their could never be a Jewish state until the return of Messiah. Danny's father passionately felt this way while Reuven's father was an ardent Zionist. This matter was further complicated by Jewish terrorist attacks as well as attackes by Arabs and the British on Jewish neighborhoods and immigrants. It was a huge mess and naturally the boys are caught in the middle with Danny's father forbidding Danny from seeing or interacting with Reuven.

Potok's writing in conveying all the emotions Reuven experiences throughout the book is stupendous. We see him grow both as a person coming into his own as a man and his relationship with Danny. We see his evolving attitude towards his own religion and how he chooses it to affect his life. Naturally Potok, an orthodox rabbi himself, treats all these conflicts with a deft and empathetic hand. There are no good guys or bad guys, just people trying to navigate the turbulent times they live in. Even the rather monstrous silent treatment Danny's father subjects him to comes from a place of love and compassion. The tragedy of the book is what circumstances people find themselves in through no fault of their own and how it affects their relationships with others. But such is the nature of life, so beautifully encapsulated by this novel.
Profile Image for Emily.
933 reviews102 followers
October 4, 2009
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.

But I was so distracted and disturbed by Reb Saunders's coldness toward his own son, his lack of willingness and/or ability to even talk to him outside of Talmudic discussion that it's difficult for me to get past it. His explanation toward the end of the book didn't really help. It was obvious that he loved his son and was incredibly proud of him, and that he truly believed that he made the best choice he could at the time in how to raise his son with a soul, though he admitted when asking for forgiveness from Danny, "A wiser father...may have done differently. I am not...wise." My heart just ached for the pain and suffering he had put both himself and his son through. And I was especially disheartened that Danny said he may raise his own son in silence, too, "if I can't find another way." I don't understand the reasoning behind being cruel to your child (because this was definitely emotional abandonment and neglect, if not outright abuse) in order to teach him compassion. There are better ways to teach compassion, even to intellectual geniuses like Danny.

For more book reviews, visit my blog, Build Enough Bookshelves.
Profile Image for Paul.
10 reviews1 follower
July 26, 2008
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, it's made me sit back and just realize that I do cherish and love my friends and that without them, I wouldn't be able to get through this life.

I really like the parts of the book where it focuses on the relationship between the two boys and their respective fathers. You can tell each father loves his son immensely, but in different ways. I also like re-learning all the things about the Jewish community, at least as much as Chaim Potok talks about. Not being Jewish, I've found a lot of the history that I didn't know about and the Jewish customs so very intriguing. I've definitely been enlightened by this book, which I consider a good thing. Mr. Potok's writing is very direct as well as descriptive, and he has such a great way of writing. And there were one or two chapters that I was so moved by his writing, that I did indeed become a little teary-eyed.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you want to reaffirm what true friendship means to you.
Profile Image for piperitapitta.
938 reviews315 followers
February 3, 2019
The Chosen





Una bella e contrastata storia di amicizia - quella fra Danny Saunders e Reuven Malter, ebrei quindicenni di Brooklyn, l’uno chassidim (gli ultra ortodossi), l’altro di una comunità non ortodossa, ciascuna con il proprio rabbino e la sua propria yeshivah (la scuola ebraica dove si studiano la Torah e il Talmud) e sinagoga - è il pretesto usato da Chaim Potok per raccontare cosa significasse essere ebrei a New York negli anni e nei giorni che precedettero il riconoscimento da parte dell’ONU dello Stato di Israele.
Ma è anche l’occasione per descrivere l’ebraismo nelle sue diverse forme confessionali e tradizioni, per ripercorrere le vicende che portarono gli ebrei ashkenaziti dell’Europa orientale negli Stati Uniti e per raccontare della chiusura degli chassidim a ogni forma di integrazione e nei confronti di ogni altra interpretazione della Torah e del Talmud.



È una storia, inoltre, in cui la diversa concezione della stessa fede mette a confronto l’importanza del sapere fine a se stesso - le interpretazioni del Talmud del padre di Reuven, sempre indulgente e teso a trasformare ogni esperienza in insegnamento di vita, e il confronto muto o le sfide a colpi di Cabala fra l’intransigente rabbino Saunders e il figlio Danny, sono sconvolgenti e affascinanti - e l’importanza della preghiera per costruire un uomo e un mondo migliori.
Infine, è ancora una volta, una storia di libero arbitrio, di destino, non già disegnato e scelto sin dalla nascita, ma nel quale anche chi si crede possa essere “eletto” per assurgere a un ruolo guida nella sua comunità, sfidando l’autorità paterna, che crede possa coincidere con quella divina, riuscirà a capire che nulla è già scritto senza che si possa decidere di modificarne il tracciato, e cambiare così il corso della propria vita.
Commovente, coinvolgente, un romanzo di formazione - fatto di dualismi e dicotomie: da un lato l’America e dall’altro Israele, da un lato l’essere americani e dall’altro essere ebrei o ebrei sionisti, da un lato lo yiddish e dall’altro l’ebraico, da un lato il baseball e dall’altro lo studio della Torah e del Talmud



Una traduzione, quella italiana, che avrebbe bisogno di una bella rinfrescata.
Profile Image for Werner.
Author 4 books564 followers
December 14, 2020
Note, Dec. 14, 2020: I've just edited this review to italicize the book title. When I wrote the review originally, I didn't know how to do that.

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 out for), but Reuven also faces it in his yeshiva, when he realizes that his own study of the Old Testament leads at times to different conclusions than those of his rabbinic tradition. Himself Jewish, Potok doesn't demonize tradition; he delivers a serious, nuanced and balanced look at its role. Though they're presented here in a Jewish context, the religious issues he deals with here are profoundly important for Christians (or persons of any faith) as well.

Like all great novels, this one has other dimensions as well. (The meaning of the title is also multi-faceted: Danny is "the chosen," but Reuven is also "chosen" across sectarian lines to become his friend; and at a deeper level, Israel itself was chosen by God as the vehicle for His revelation to mankind.)

For Gentile Christians like myself, another rewarding feature of this book is the window it provides into Jewish culture and thought, especially the American urban Jewish culture that had so great an influence on the shaping of our country in the decades after the story takes place. Prior to reading this book, I really knew nothing at all about Hasidic Judaism, its origins or particular beliefs; so all of the historical information Potok seamlessly provides was fascinating to me.
Profile Image for Elisabeth.
69 reviews2 followers
July 5, 2007
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 should do two things for himself. One is to acquire a teacher...[the other is to] choose a friend...two people who are true friends are like two bodies with one soul."
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,275 followers
April 17, 2017
There are a lot of Jewish people in Brooklyn. One of them is my wife, but most of them aren't. There are a bunch of Modern Orthodox Jews, and the US's largest population of Hasidic Jews, based famously in Williamsburg. They're both conservative; one major difference is that Hasidic Jews are anti-Israel, for complicated and dumb reasons. The Chosen is about a friendship between a Modern Orthodox Jew, Reuven Malter, and a Hasidic Jew named Danny Saunders. I only heard about Chaim Potok and this book recently, which surprised my wife; for her, The Chosen was a core high school text.

There's a lot of attention to analysis of the Talmud, a dizzying body of arcane arguments about religious details. Some bookish men from both traditions dedicate their lives to learning about this stuff, which seems like a shame; here are these perfectly good readers who are not reading Middlemarch. If you want to know more about all that, you'll love this book. I found it interesting, mostly.

The boys are footsoldiers in a larger debate / battle between opposing schools of Jewish belief,, deployed in a way by their fathers, who never meet face to face but are extremely aware of each other. They respect each other, but disagree vehemently. Danny's father, in a story so crazy it must be true, hasn't spoken to him since he was an infant; they discuss Talmud together but otherwise don't communicate at all. He's trying to teach him compassion. I suggested to my wife that we try this with our kid, and she was like "Good luck keeping your mouth shut for more than thirty seconds," which is a decent point.

It's a glimpse into a foreign and exotic world, even though it's like two neighborhoods away from me, and it's all interesting but it feels a little "young adult" to me. The story is written in simple language, and the message is overstated to make sure you don't miss anything. I don't think it's particularly great literature.
Profile Image for Elliot Ratzman.
516 reviews66 followers
March 28, 2013
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 Orthodox Reuven would battle it out over Talmud. Did this book do for Talmud study what the Leon Uris’s Exodus did for Zionism? Re-reading the Chosen, I was struck by the emphasis placed on Zionism as Reuven’s father works feverishly—literally, every character is sick or sickly in this book—for a Jewish State back when that was something you could root for with little qualification. One reader stumped me at the end of our session: Why does the Talmud say that silence is more valuable than words?
Profile Image for R.J. Rodda.
Author 4 books54 followers
January 5, 2017
The story of an extraordinary friendship between two boys raised by parents with opposing views about how best to practise the Jewish faith. One boy is a genius whose father will go to extreme lengths to preserve his faith in God. I still shake my head at his actions but the power of this story is that it is not only unforgettable but it opens the curtain on Hasidic culture and contrasts it with the more modern but still devout Jew. A fascinating story, a page-turning friendship, and a rite of passage with the boys becoming men on two very different paths by the end.
Profile Image for Ms. B.
2,794 reviews35 followers
March 21, 2021
A book that encourages us to debate and discuss our differences; at least, 3.75 stars. I have a feeling if I reread this the number of stars would go up. Two boys growing up Jewish, Reuven and Danny vacillate between being enemies and friends in this story that explores the Jewish faith in United States and throughout the world in the late 1940s.
A bestseller and National Book Award nominee when it was first published in 1967. For those wanting to learn more about the Jewish faith or who simply like coming of age stories.
Profile Image for Melissa McShane.
Author 56 books733 followers
November 6, 2015
This book holds up so well to multiple re-readings. It's a story of friendship, of family love, of the relationships between fathers and sons, set against the background of Hasidic Judaism. This time, I'm unconvinced that raising a child in silence, as Danny's father does, will result in a compassionate child, but I am moved by Danny's struggle to be both himself and what his father and his father's followers need him to be. Reuven, the narrator, serves both as a channel for what the reader (who can't be presumed to know anything about Orthodox Jews) needs to learn and as a support for the brilliant Danny, without being diminished by his best friend's brilliance. In fact, Reuven's complementary abilities keep Danny from being unbelievable in his intellectual flawlessness; Danny acknowledges that he and Reuven think differently, and one of my favorite scenes is a class in which Reuven takes four days to explicate a difficult passage of the Talmud while Danny silently cheers him on. It's a brilliant book, emotionally challenging, and one I will no doubt come back to again.
Profile Image for Carol Brill.
Author 3 books154 followers
April 1, 2016
I was charmed by Reuven and Danny, and their ability to bridge differences to nurture their loyal friendship. That and how the author creates a strong sense of time and the orthodox Jewish culture and lifestyle in the mid 1900's engaged me.

Some parts of the book were harder for me to enjoy. I slogged through many of religious details and history and the lectures and debates.

I loved Reuven's relationship with his father. Danny's with his was hard to fathom and heartbreaking.

The non-religious history, especially the country's response to Roosevelt's death, the discovery of the horror of the concentration camps, and the resulting Zionist movement moved me and kept my interest.

Profile Image for Jan Rice.
508 reviews426 followers
June 1, 2020
Intense. The silent treatment was the aspect I kept thinking about. But book not quite suited for my bibliotraumatic shelf, at least not at this remove.

This book was impressive. Wondering, though, if I would react differently now, in light of my reaction to the Potok I'm currently reading and to the play My Name Is Asher Lev that I saw in 2012.

I only began keeping lists of books and when I read them in around 2005. Even then, it was hit-or-miss at first; reviews started out as thumbnails and didn't come until later. Couldn't find this one but husband's list provides me with a backup. Early 2009, so maybe actually listened in 2008. Since we both listened, maybe a car trip. ...Double-checked and found I had listed after all. 2009!
Profile Image for Alina.
327 reviews7 followers
July 2, 2007
(...as 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 book, in addition to being well written, gave a great history of the Jewish issues and polarization after WWII, with the fight to create a Jewish state. Fascinating way to get a glimpse of American Jewish history in the guise of fiction. Also fun to learn some new Yiddish words. :)
Profile Image for Matthew.
29 reviews5 followers
October 12, 2020
I read this in 2017. Very nice empathy with the believable Jewish characters is so possible and a vivid sight ,every page. Look into the Jewish family of 20th Century U.S. in a detailed intellectual tour that is the chosen.
Profile Image for Lucy.
466 reviews586 followers
December 17, 2007
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 his father's place as the community tzaddik, or spiritual leader of Hasidic Jews. To teach his son compassion, he parents him with silence, like his father did before him, and the only time father and son talk is when they discuss the Talmud, a Jewish book consisting of different rabbi's discussions of Jewish laws and ethics.

But, the father-son relationship is only one side of the thematically complicated but narratively simple story. There is much food for thought about friendship ("You think it is easy to be a friend? If you are truly his friend, you will learn otherwise") which Danny's father, Reb Saunders, tells the narrator of the story, Reuven Malter, and certainly proves to be true. There is a fantastic development about the Zionist movement, and the opposition within the Jewish community against Israel to be created after the second World War. There is an interesting, albeit outdated, flirtation with psychology and Freudism. And much, much more...especially if someone could simply live inside my head and answer back whenever I had a "and what do you think about this?" moment.

I find that one of Potok's greatest achievements is his ability to narrowly write a story that happens in a close, sheltered environment about a specific religious belief, and have it easily apply to many different beliefs and situations. I found myself thinking to myself most of today about how this story, about a community of ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jews, has a lot in common with my current community. This place, where I live, has the broadest spectrum of believers/non-believers, practicing/non-practicing, ultra conservative/ultra liberal members of my own religion. The characters in the story are living and functioning in an almost self-contained environment. Their schools are Jewish. Their sports teams are Jewish. Their stores, hospitals, friends and neighborhoods are Jewish. The conflict is not "us vs. them" but "old us vs. new or changing us" and "holier us vs. secular us". They don't see the world around them.

Ding, ding, ding!!!

Like poor Reb Saunders had to discover by isolating his son from his best friend, and what David Saunders knew, but didn't have the courage to proclaim, good exists in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. It exists down the street, where perhaps the homes aren't matching brown stucco craftsman style. It exists at the other school. It exists in literature and areas of study and even at the church with the different shaped spire. There is goodness everywhere.

This belief of mine is fundamentally different from Reb Saunders, who explained that each person is born with a tiny spark of goodness which is enveloped in a shell of ugly and evil. It is the responsibility of the parent, the church, the community to protect that spark, encourage it, feed it so that it can grow and expand to eventually fill the shell and push out the evil.

While there is certainly plenty of evil surrounding us all, I think it only gets more bold and has more room to grow when we huddle around our goodness. It, goodness, is bigger than we allow it to be. We need to link goodness to goodness and charge down the street, all ablaze together.

Kind of a tangent, but I love books that make me go off down one. I can't say this book is a favorite, because it didn't make me feel the way a book needs to, but I'm certainly glad I've read it and happily encourage anyone who hasn't to do so.
Profile Image for Hayden.
116 reviews44 followers
Read
January 25, 2021
I'm not even going to bother to rate this or give it a review.
This book was so boring.
Profile Image for Josh Caporale.
281 reviews46 followers
February 7, 2017
4.5 stars

I started a collection of Chaim Potok novels with the intent that he would not disappoint me in my quest in immersing myself in a great work of literature while also becoming much more informed about Judaism. By no means did Potok disappoint. I felt that The Chosen, being an earlier work of his, would be a great starting point and a great starting point it was. I felt that what I read was a great and important story about a time, place, and circumstance that I am now much more aware through the point of view of a perspective that is not my own.

While the paperback version I read did not have a summary on the back, the plot is not too difficult to understand. The story is told through the eyes of Reuven Malter, an Orthodox Jew that lives with his father and has a maid, Manya, that tends to them during the day. Reuven's father, David, is a respected teacher and Zionist. Reuven, who dreams of being a mathematician, tells his story with a sense of logic and in many ways we could relate to his "matter of fact" disposition. The main story in this text is Reuven's relationship with a Hasidic Jewish student from another school by the name of Danny Saunders, whose father, Reb Saunders, is a respected figure in his community. During a baseball game where Danny and Reuven's teams are competing, a ball that Danny hits slams right into Reuven's eye and it requires medical attention. While they relationship starts as what seems to be a bitter rivalry, it quickly turns into Danny and Reuven's relationship and how two people from different backgrounds and different ways at approaching life find common ground and an ability to benefit from one another. This novel also explores how each sees themselves as Jewish men, while also as men that are looking to pursue what they wish, regarding of their religion. For Reuven, it is mathematics, while for Danny, it is psychology.

I learned a lot about Judaism, especially Hasidic Judaism, in this text at hand. Chaim Potok does a great job informing readers about this religion through the eyes of Reuven and his experiences and also through the teachings of David Malter and Reb Saunders. At the same time, Potok makes this an entertaining work and one that possesses a realistic tone and sense of humor. There was also that sense that just about everything was explained, which resolved any issues that may have developed. If there was any criticism, I would say that came from its tendency to be a bit stand-offish and how the displaying of information may create a dense atmosphere for the reader, but only to the point where it took a half-star from the final score. I feel that the reason for Reb's silence toward his son, Danny (Reb only spoke to his son while they were studying), says a lot about the tone of how this story was told and how these lives were lived.

Being an ordained rabbi, Chaim Potok did a remarkable job telling this story and gave me a greater understanding about Hasidic Judaism and the explanations to what seemed like complexities through Reb Saunders' very own stories.

You can find my video review from Literary Gladiators here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA3r7...
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