Chaim Potok: Asher Lev, the Artist In Conflict With Community

This is a 10-week seminar, starting on February 23, 2017

Moderator:                Robert W. Barker
Day and Time:         Thursday 9:30-11:30 AM
Format:                       Seminar
Location:                   Lathrop Easthampton, Mt. Tom Room
                                        (free parking on site)

The seminar will explore the conflict between tradition and individualism and the tension between religion and art, using two novels by Chaim Potok, My Name is Asher Lev, and The Gift of Asher Lev.

What happens when a child is given a great artistic talent, indeed is an artistic prodigy? What happens when this creative gift is in direct conflict with the traditions and strongest beliefs of the child’s family and community? Where is the balance?  Is a balance possible? Chaim Potok asserts that the conflict between tradition and individualism is constant, and that the tension between religion and art can be a lifelong struggle. In this seminar, we will explore these conflicts and tensions as they are raised and developed in Chaim Potok’s two books, My Name is Asher Lev, and The Gift of Asher Lev. In these books, Asher Lev grows from a young boy, in a Hasidic Jewish family and community, to a young, well-respected and successful artist. He struggles to accommodate his insistent artistic genius within the social pressures of his community to conform. We will read and discuss both books, aided by available resources, such as recorded interviews of Chaim Potok.

Role of participants:
Participants will choose a portion of one of the two books and lead a discussion of the critical issues with the participation of the group. Alternatively, participants can choose from a selection of specific topics presented by the moderator to research and present to the group with abundant opportunity for discussion.

Publications and other resources that will be used by all participants (authors, titles, and editions if applicable):
Participants will be required to purchase or acquire from a library one copy each of the two books, My Name is Asher Lev, and The Gift of Asher Lev, both by Chaim Potok. The particular edition or publisher is not consequential. They should be read prior to the first day of the seminar.

About the Moderator:
Robert Barker is a retired geological explorer. He currently works as a writer, writing both novels and short poetry, and is an experienced moderator. His book, The Devil’s Chosen, explores the decision making process of the Holocaust.