Author Chaim Potok, 73, died Wednesday of cancer in his Merion, Pennsylvania home. Potok was a conservative rabbi and author of nine novels including The Chosen (1967), The Promise (1969),My Name is Asher Lev (1972), Davita's Harp (1985) and The Gift of Asher Lev (1990), for which he was awarded The National Jewish Book Award for Fiction.
His writing is known for its questions of spirituality and meaning. His novels often chronicled tensions between various factions of Judaism and the struggle between Judaism and the secular world.
At Potok's funeral, University of Pennsylvania professor Jeffrey Tigay said the author "opened a window to the Jewish soul for the Jew and non-Jew alike."
In 1978, Christianity Today assistant editor Cheryl Forbes interviewed Potok. This article originally appeared in the September 8, 1978 issue of CT.
Chaim Potok is a small, quick man filled with intellectual intensity. His novels—including The Chosen, The Promise, My Name Is Asher Lev, and In the Beginning—are not just popular; they are well written and deal with the problems of faith in a secular society. Even though the faith Potok writes of is orthodox or Hasidic Judaism, evangelical readers (and there are many) find themselves understanding and empathizing with the conflicts he presents. Evangelicals and Jews both live in what Potok calls a religious subculture, one that holds a firm belief in God, in the supernatural, in miracles, and in a way of living that contradicts everything contemporary society appreciates and approves. And we live under that secular umbrella.
Potok's books do something more. They explain Jewish tradition and religion. As Harold O. J. Brown has said, Jews and Christians are bound together. We need to understand each other. ...1
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