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Chaim Potok And The Problem Of Assimilation

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    For The American Jew Essay, Research Paper

    Chaim Potok and the Problem of

    Assimilation for the American Jew

    America has been a state of immigrants since Europeans foremost settled it over five hundred old ages ago. America has ever faced the job of assimilation, a challenge faced by every state with a considerable immigrant population. Because immigrants founded America, her civilization is a combination of the civilizations of other states. Should these immigrants isolate themselves from the mainstream American civilization, or should they give the civilization of their fatherlands for the benefits American civilization has to offer? Judaism, one of the universe? s oldest faiths, has remained strong over its six thousand twelvemonth history by staying distinguishable? and isolated? from other civilizations. Chaim Potok, in his books The Chosen, My Name is Asher Lev, In the Beginning, and The Book of Lights, focuses on this struggle between Orthodox Judaism and the secular universe.

    Many of Chaim Potok? s characters want the American Jewry to stay stray from the mainstream American civilization:

    The universe kills us! The universe flays our tegument from our organic structures and throws us into the fires! The universe laughs at Torah! And if it does non kill us, it tempts us! It misleads us! It contaminates us! It asks us to fall in in its ugliness, its abominations! ( The Chosen 127 )

    The Chosen? trades with the jobs Jews have faced in seeking to continue their heritage? in peculiar, the job of how to cover with the danger of assimilation? ( Young ) ) . The Jews have ever been professionals busying occupations in medical specialty, jurisprudence, instruction, and other Fieldss necessitating a college grade. American Jews, nevertheless, face a quandary: ? Ideas from this secular universe necessarily impinge upon an single Born in a church community or a synagogue community, particularly when that single embarks ona college experience? ( Potok 2 ) . American Jews must either take on nonprofessional occupations, presuming an individuality wholly different from that of European Jews, or expose themselves to secular America. Isolation is exhaustively impractical for the American Jew.

    Chaim Potok? s works frequently focus on chief characters whose endowments draw them to the outside universe:

    When persons are brought up in the bosom of such a community or civilization [ as Danny? s and Reuven? s ] they learn to perpetrate themselves to its values? They see the universe through the system of values of that alone community. At the same clip, nevertheless, they experience of import thoughts or values that come from the universe outside their community ( Potok 1 ) .

    In the Beginning trades with a immature Judaic male child who stumbles on a scientific manner to analyse the Bible. He is able to understand hard transitions but his community disapproves of his technique ( Potok 6 ) . In The Chosen, Danny Saunder? s glare leads him to read books forbidden by his male parent ; these books present position points contradictory to what his community believes, and he must accommodate his newfound cognition with his upbringing ( Potok 2 ) . My Name is Asher Lev focuses on a Judaic kid with an astonishing gift for art. Hebraism has ever discouraged art because it borders on the devotion of Paganism and the iconography of Christianity. Asher Lev must accommodate his demand to make art with his cultural ties ( Potok 5 ) . Potok? s novels feature characters whose extraordinary gifts do them to interact with the secular universe every bit good as their Judaic communities.

    Chaim Potok emphasizes the connexion between Orthodox Jewry and the secular universe by holding his characters react to major historical events ( ) . The Book of Lights is set against the Korean War. In that novel, Gershon Loran travels to Korea and Japan, two states that have ne’er been influenced by Judaism. Loran has ever been taught that Judaism is the educating force in Western Civilization. He must accommodate his ain religion in the supremity of Hebraism with this beauty that was created without any Judaic impact ( Potok 6-7 ) . The Chosen trades with the wake of the Holocaust and the Zionist motion. In this novel the characters handle the intelligence of the Holocaust in different ways: Reb Saunders seeks an reply from God, while David Malther becomes a Zionist, working in the universe to forestall such farces from happening once more ( Young ) . Reb Saunders does non believe in the Zionist motion because the Messiah has non yet come, which the Torah clearly states must go on before a Judaic province can be created.

    In Potok? s novels the characters? interactions with the secular universe assist them specify themselves. His fresh The Chosen? teaches the fact that certain things may go on in your life, and from at that place on out, you? re changed everlastingly. A new mentality, a new position? . Danny Saunders is both the supporter and the adversary of the s

    Tory ; the novel s about his battle to accept his Hasidic upbringing, which conflicts with his survey of Sigmund Freud ( ) . Freud did non believe in a supernatural ; with no supernatural, Freud says, faith is an? childish psychotic belief of the species which we all ought to outgrow? ( qtd. Potok 3 ) . Danny? s community has ever been centered on faith. Should he ignore everything Freud Teachs, or should he accept the fact that everything he of all time knew was false, that his full universe was a fake? Danny finally embraces Freud? s position of adult male but non his position of faith. This battle serves as the accelerator for Danny? s chrysalis from young person to maturity ( Potok 3 ) . Reuven helps Danny accommodate his feelings about Freud with his Hassidic upbringing. During the class of the novel the male childs both have to take their calling ; the novel is about? happening one? s topographic point in the universe instead than allowing it be assigned by others ( Stanbro ) . Danny and Reuven? must take for themselves which elements to retain and which to reject from their traditions? ( Stanbro ) . The novel is? about larning to take different places. It is about the importance of interaction with our jobs? ( greglor ) . Reuven and Danny ab initio become good friends because of an accident in a baseball game. The baseball games were advocated chiefly by the English instructors:

    To the rabbis who taught in the Judaic parochial schools, baseball was an evil waste of clip, a spawn of the potentially assimilationist English part of the yeshiva twenty-four hours. But to the pupils of most of the parochial schools, an inter-league baseball triumph had come to take on merely a shadiness of less significance than a top class in Talmud, for it was an undisputed grade of one? s Americanism, and to be counted a loyal American had become progressively of import to us during these last old ages of the war ( The Chosen 12 ) .

    Danny and Reuven would ne’er hold become friends if they had stayed within their communities ; they merely came to cognize each other through a? potentially assimilationist? activity. Both male childs grew to adulthood because their friendly relationship introduced them to see outside of their childhood communities.

    Chaim Potok? s books frequently focus on the hurting characters cause themselves and their communities when they choose to encompass the secular universe instead than Orthodox or Hasidim Judaism. The Chosen begins with Reuven Malther being injured in a baseball game. His attacker is Danny Saunders

    who is driven to force by his repressed torture, who feels imprisoned by the tradition that destines him to win his amazing male parent in an unbroken line of Hasidic rabbis, while his ain restless intelligence is get downing to make out into the out countries of secular cognition ( The Chosen: Outline ) .

    In The Chosen, Potok contrasts Reuven Malther, who was raised to believe for himself, with Danny Saunders, who was raised to accept his male parent? s Hasidic political orientations. Both male childs choose a way different from what their male parents would hold preferred: Danny Saunders becomes a psychologist, and Reuven a rabbi. Danny? s pick to go a psychologist, nevertheless, is much harder than Reuven? s pick to go a rabbi because Danny? s civilization has taught him that the will of the community is more of import than the will of the person. David Malther, because he is a instructor and a bookman, is more unfastened to secular thoughts and is willing to allow his boy take his calling. Reb Saunders, on the other manus, has ever tried to protect his community from what he sees as the drosss of the universe ( Young ) ; the thought that his eldest boy would take to be a psychologist, a secular profession, instead than a rabbi is scandalous to him. Reb Saunders is tormented by his boy? s glare:

    The maestro of the Universe blessed me with a superb boy. And he cursed me with all the jobs of raising him? When my Daniel was four old ages old, I saw him reading a narrative from a book? about a hapless Jew and his battles to acquire to Eretz Yisroel before he died. Ah, how the adult male suffered! And my Danny enjoyed the narrative? he realized for the first clip what a memory he had!

    To Reb Saunders, compassion is more of import than intelligence. His boy, nevertheless, is plagued with a head so superb that he can non hold a psyche every bit compassionate as his male parent would wish.

    Chaim Potok? s two most celebrated novels, The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev, both focus on a superb boy who chooses a calling in the secular universe, much to the letdown of their male parents. These books, in add-on to The Book of Lights and In the Beginning, besides focal point on the job of Judaic assimilation into mainstream American civilization. Chaim Potok? s novels are clearly Judaic yet contain cosmopolitan subjects that apply to everyone, irrespective of cultural background.

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