Potok, Chaim 1929-2002

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POTOK, Chaim 1929-2002

(Herman Harold Potok)

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born Herman Harold Potok on February 17, 1929, in New York, NY; died of brain cancer July 23, 2002, in Merion, PA. Novelist. Potok published nearly twenty books, and was best known for his novels The Chosen, The Promise, and My Name Is Asher Lev although he also wrote nonfiction and children's books. Born to Polish-Jewish immigrants and groomed to become a Talmudic scholar, Potok decided instead to become a writer. He graduated summa cum laude from Yeshiva University and in 1954 was ordained a Conservative rabbi. After serving as an army chaplain in Korea, he earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. He published his first novel, The Chosen, in 1967; it was nominated for a National Book Award, adapted as a motion picture in 1982, and adapted for the stage as a musical in the late 1980s and a play in 2002. Potok wrote of Jewish culture from an insider viewpoint, often focusing on the inevitable conflicts that arise between secular artistic impulses and deeply held, culturally based Jewish beliefs. Several of his novels, among them The Promise (1969), My Name Is Asher Lev (1972), the mystical The Book of Lights (1981), and Davita's Harp (1985), received mixed critical reviews as a result of his return to this theme. Potok also taught at several colleges, including the University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College, and Johns Hopkins University. His 1999 children's story "Moon" won the O. Henry Award, while his last book, a collection of three novellas titled Old Men at Midnight, was published in 2001. He also worked with violinist Isaac Stern on Stern's critically respected autobiography, My First Seventy-nine Years, published in 1999.



Baltimore Sun, July 24, 2002.

Guardian (London, England), July 31, 2002, p. 18.

Los Angeles Times July 24, 2002 p. B11.

New York Times, July 24, 2002, p. A17.

Philadelphia Daily News, July 24, 2002, p. 31.

Times (London, England) July 26, 2002 p. 31.

Washington Post, July 24, 2002, p. B05.