The Arty Semite

A Hasidic Painter and His Mother

By Curt Schleier

Joan Marcus

The most basic advice given to every would-be author is to write what you know. And Chaim Potok did just that.

His best and most popular novels — “The Chosen” and “My Name Is Asher Lev” — are about boys struggling between their ultra-Orthodox upbringing and secular destinies. In “The Chosen,” the protagonist, the son of a hasidic rebbe, wants to be a psychologist; for Asher Lev it is art that draws him from his family.

Though not hasidic, Potok was raised in an Orthodox household where reading and writing on non-Jewish subjects was discouraged. But for Potok, who was also an artist, there didn’t seem to be a choice.

And so it is with his creation, recreated on stage in “My Name is Asher Lev,” currently playing the West Side Theater, an off-Broadway shtetl that also houses “Old Jews Telling Jokes.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Theater, My Name is Asher Lev, Curt Schleier, Aaron Posner, Chaim Potok

This Week in Forward Arts and Culture

By Ezra Glinter

Getty Images

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: This Week in Forward Arts and Culture, Theater J, The Chosen, Ronit Elkabetz, Michael Tilson Thomas, Miral, Julian Schnabel, Hora Agadati, Elizabeth Taylor, Chaim Potok, Boris Thomashefsky, Bessie Thomashefsky

Choosing 'The Chosen,' on Stage and Screen

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

There aren’t too many novels that can lay claim to a second, much less a third, lease on life as both a film and a play, especially when the subject at hand has to do with religion and faith. But “The Chosen,” Chaim Potok’s novel of Orthodox Jewish life in Brooklyn during the waning years of the 1940s, has, of late, scored a home run.

These days, it takes the form of a critically acclaimed play which, thanks to a creative partnership between Theater J and Arena Stage, can be seen at the latter’s 800-seat Fichandler Theatre downtown.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rod Steiger, Maximillian Schell, Jenna Weissman Joselit, From Under the Fig Tree, Film, Chaim Potok, Eliot Fremont-Smith, Fichandler Theatre, Books, Arena Stage, Ari Roth, The Chosen, Theater, Theater J

Friday Film: Reading Chaim Potok in Algeria

By Ralph Seliger

Sony Pictures Classics

In this age of conflicts in and with the Islamic world, it’s heartening to see a fact-based film about religious amity, even one that’s set during a sectarian civil war in an Arab country. The French-language production “Of Gods and Men” follows a group of French monks in Algeria who are threatened by Islamic extremists during the Algerian civil war in the 1990s. After winning the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2010, the film is being released commercially in the U.S. on February 25.

The film’s star, Lambert Wilson (alongside the ever-stately Michael Lonsdale), is a veteran actor in both his native French and in English. His talents as a singer stand him in good stead as Brother Christian, the head monk in a Trappist monastery. The authentic prayers the actors intone are but one of the film’s charms.

Aside from a title inspired by Psalm 82, the Jewish connection is slight: A visiting monk brings “The Chosen” as a gift requested by Christian. The screenwriter, Etienne Comar, confirmed in an e-mail that this was Chaim Potok’s novel, but he could not recall if the gift was factual or an invention.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Algeria, Cannes, Chaim Potok, Etienne Comar, Film, Lambert Wilson, L’Abbe Pierre, Michael Lonsdale, Of Gods and Men, Ralph Seliger, The Chosen




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