Penn Libraries Receive Chaim Potok Papers

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Media Contact:Joe Zucca | | 215-573-4643
Media Contact:Jeanne Leong | | 215-573-8151January 15, 2010


PHILADELPHIA –- The University of Pennsylvania is now home to papers documenting the life and literary career of novelist, rabbi and professor Chaim Potok.

The collection includes correspondence, writings, lectures, sermons, article clippings, memorabilia and fan mail. One of the letters is from writer, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who wrote to Potok in 1992 saying he read all of Potok’s books “with fervor and friendship.”

“It’s an honor for us to curate the papers of Chaim Potok,” Carton Rogers, vice provost and director of the Penn Libraries, said. “His publications have had a widespread impact on generations of students and researchers, and we are looking forward to opening his unpublished works to that same audience.”

Potok’s first novel, “The Chosen,” received the Edward Lewis Wallant Memorial Book Award and was nominated for the National Book Award. Potok worked in many genres, including novels, short stories, plays, essays, reviews, editorials and non- fiction works, including “Wanderings: Chaim Potok's History of the Jews” and, with violinist Isaac Stern, “My First 79 Years,” a biography of Stern.

Scholars who examine Potok’s papers will be able to trace his writing process from conception to publication, from notebooks for ideas to drafts, from annotated typescripts with comments to galleys.

The collection also provides insights into Potok’s life, including his vocation as a rabbi, his service as a U.S. Army chaplain in Korea from 1955 to 1957 and his work at the Jewish Publication Society, where he served as editor-in-chief from 1969 to 1974.

Potok is a Penn alumnus and was a teacher in Penn’s General Honors Program.

He died in 2002 and bequeathed his papers to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. The collection is housed in the Penn Rare Book and Manuscript Library.