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The Chosen - Historic Events

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Chaim Potok uses historic events to help shape the plot of The Chosen and create conflicts and challenges for the characters to overcome. Specifically, the Holocaust and the Zionist movement create a feeling of aversion between the Malters and the Saunders by setting the Malters' reform Jewish, Zionist beliefs against those of the Hasidic, anti-Zionist Saunders. In the end of The Chosen, after the strength of Reuven and Danny's friendship has been thoroughly tested, their bond emerges just as healthy as it was prior to their estrangement. The characters' reactions to these events shape the entire second half of The Chosen.

When the news of the intense Nazi persecution of the Jews reaches New York, the Malters and the Saunders are intensely disturbed. While David Malter is reading an account of the terror of the Holocaust, Reuven sees him "break down and weep like a child"(180). Reb Saunders shows his grief when he sighs, "How the world makes us suffer"(181). Danny and Reuven are also "tense and distraught"(181) after an original feeling of shock. Although both families' initial reactions are identical, their solutions to the persecution of the Hebrews are radically different.

Differences in ideology between the two families of The Chosen cause conflict between the two patriarchs and their sons. The Hasidic viewpoint, which is shared by Danny and Reb Saunders, is that everything that happens on Earth is the result of God's will. Therefore, the Holocaust is what God wanted. Reb Saunders believes that there is nothing they can do but "accept the will of God"(181) and that no human intervention is necessary or even tolerable.

Conversely, David and Reuven Malter believe that the Jewish people "cannot wait for God"(182), and that they must "replace the treasures [the Jewish people] have lost"(182). David Malter is not as sure that the future rests solely in God's hands as Reb Saunders is and says, "If we do not rebuild Jewry in America, we will die as a people"(182). The Malters share a more widely accepted view that they live in a world that can be changed for better or for worse by people's thoughts and actions. Therefore, the Malters believe that people must either speak and act against injustices or expect the worst for the world and its populace.

The ideas of David, Reuven and other reform Jews sparked new interest in the notion of a Hebrew state in Palestine. Zionism was an idea with a long history, but it starts to involve the characters of The Chosen and picks up intensity after the Holocaust. Zionists, such as the Malters, believe that a Hebrew state in their ancient promised land, now Palestine, should be reestablished as a haven for the world's Jews to live without persecution. Reb Saunders and other anti-Zionists believe that reestablishing Israel before the Messiah is sent from God would be against His will.

Reuven's father becomes very active in the Zionist movement and works endlessly to help the Zionist cause. David Malter becomes physically sick from working so hard and has "his third cold in five months"(201). After David gives a speech at the Madison Square Garden in favor of Zionism, Reb puts a ban on any interaction between the Saunders and Malters. Reuven and Danny's friendship is seriously jeopardized when Reb Saunders orders Danny "not to see [Reuven], talk to [him], listen to [him], or be found within four feet of [him]"(217). Reuven understandably

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