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The Chosen, Chaim Potok (1967)

Williamsburg’s original hipsters balance religion and modernity

Ruth Franklin
September 17, 2013

Danny, the genius son of a Hasidic rebbe, is expected to take his father’s place, but he prefers sneaking off in the afternoons to read Freud at the public library. Reuven, Danny’s Modern Orthodox friend, is drawn to the Hasidic world but repelled by the strange relationship between Danny and his father, who almost never speaks to his son. Schlocky? Of course. But The Chosen is still worth stealing off your parents’ shelves: for its evocations of pre-hipster Williamsburg and Crown Heights, and for its insights into how believing Jews negotiate their faith—with themselves, with each other, and with God.

Ruth Franklin is a book critic and the author of A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction, which has just appeared in paperback.