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The Chosen

(Reuven Malther #1)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  89,029 ratings  ·  4,337 reviews
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 p ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 12th 1987 by Fawcett Books (first published 1966)
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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 ·  89,029 ratings  ·  4,337 reviews

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Jim Fonseca
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.


Due to a baseball injury, he makes friends with another
Greta G
"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 h
Oct 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Katie Hanna
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, classics
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."
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 specifi ...more
Aug 14, 2007 rated it did not like it
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???
Oct 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish-interest
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
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.

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,
John Hatley
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, classics
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 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone with an interest in serious fiction
Shelves: general-fiction
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" f
Jul 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Carol Brill
Apr 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 his
Apr 14, 2017 rated it liked it
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 bo ...more
R.J. Rodda
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 p ...more
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
Oct 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Hayden (on hiatus)
I'm not even going to bother to rate this or give it a review.
This book was so boring.
Melissa McShane
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 ...more
Jan Rice
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, audio, religion
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 did
Jul 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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.
Josh Caporale
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 thr
Elyse  Walters
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this 'gem' in High School!!!

Happy 'almost' Hanukkah to my Jewish friends!
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Re-reading in July 2015:

Review from first reading in May 2014:
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. W
Megan Baxter
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Chaim Potok is a master at creating characters that you genuinely care about, and then putting them in positions where the one thing that they feel they must do is the one thing that will hurt them the most, and often, the one thing that will separate them forever from their families and heritage.

I read My Name is Asher Lev first, and I think I'm still only gradually getting over that book. The Chosen is almost as good, and probably should have gotten five stars, but Asher Lev made me walk arou
Jun 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Sep 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Jewish Book Club: The Chosen 7 33 Feb 03, 2021 07:53PM  
Play Book Tag: The Chosen by Chaim Potok - 5 stars 5 23 Aug 02, 2016 07:26PM  
The value of silence? 11 276 Jul 25, 2015 08:26PM  
What do you think about Reb Saunders method of teaching his son, Danny? 14 92 Dec 12, 2014 10:26AM  
What to read next? 17 92 Oct 27, 2014 09:30PM  

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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 n ...more

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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.” 2371 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.”
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