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Chaim Potok and the Problem of Assimilation for the American Jew America has been a country of immigrants since Europeans first settled it over five hundred years ago America has always faced the problem of assimilation a challenge faced by every country with a considerable immigrant population Because immigrants founded America her culture is a combination of the cultures of other countries Should these immigrants isolate themselves from the mainstream American culture or should they sacrifice the culture of their homelands for the benefits American culture has to offer Judaism one of the worlds oldest religions has remained strong over its six thousand year history by remaining distinct and isolated from other cultures Chaim Potok in his books The Chosen My Name is Asher Lev In the Beginning and The Book of Lights focuses on this conflict between Orthodox Judaism and the secular world Many of Chaim Potoks characters want the American Jewry to remain isolated from the mainstream American culture The world kills us The world flays our skin from our bodies and throws us into the flames The world laughs at Torah And if it does not kill us it tempts us It misleads us It contaminates us It asks us to join in its ugliness its abominations The Chosen 127 The Chosen deals with the problems Jews have faced in trying to preserve their heritage in particular the problem of how to deal with the danger of assimilation Young The Jews have always been professionals occupying jobs in medicine law education and other fields requiring a college degree American Jews however face a dilemma Ideas from this secular world inevitably impinge upon an individual born in a church community or a synagogue community especially when that individual embarks ona college experience Potok 2 American Jews must either take on nonprofessional jobs assuming an identity completely different from that of European Jews or expose themselves to secular America Isolation
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