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To boldly go

Acclaimed Jewish author Chaim Potok — whose appearance was the first sign of TCU’s new Jewish Studies Program — told a packed Ed Landreth Auditorium that it’s okay to split the Star Trek infinitive so long as we discover the infinite worlds around us and in us.

To boldly go

Acclaimed Jewish author Chaim Potok — whose appearance was the first sign of TCU’s new Jewish Studies Program — told a packed Ed Landreth Auditorium that it’s okay to split the Star Trek infinitive so long as we discover the infinite worlds around us and in us.

We all wake up.

After that, each of our stories begin.

“You wake up, you eat breakfast, you listen to rock music, you get on a bus, you go to school, you say hello to this person, you listen to that teacher, you respond that way,” Jewish author Chaim Potok told an attentive Ed Landreth Auditorium crowd in October, filled primarily with TCU students and area elementary and middle school students.

“Later, your friend calls you up and asks, ‘How was your day?’ Well, the last thing you’re going to tell him is what happened to you moment by moment . . . . We leave this out, we put this in, we exaggerate here.

“That’s how we communicate with each other. We tell stories.”

Potok knows all about storytelling. In his book Zebra, a collection of six stories that was required reading for all freshmen this past semester, Potok uses a teacher-student relationship, a schoolyard bully, the death of a child, as means to confront trust, peer pressure and grief. As one young character in Zebra notes, I think losing your soul is when you can’t tell a story about something that has happened to you. Known for “confronting culture” in all his works, Potok has also revealed what it means to be a Jew in 20th-century America.

TCU, he said, appears to be strengthening that message.

“When I heard that TCU was taking on a Jewish Studies program, I took notice and decided to come, primarily out of curiosity,” he said.” A university is supposed to be universal. I think this fuses together two communities in a bond of cooperation. Lord knows, we have a lot going on in America that is not so good. It’s good to see something like this happening.”

Potok was the first speaker of the Gates of Chai Lectureship (part of the Jewish Studies Program), created and endowed by the Gates of Chai Foundation in memory of Larry Kornbleet and family members of Stanley and Marcia Kornbleet Kurtz who perished in the Holocaust. The Jewish Studies Program will include as early as next fall the appointment of a premier Jewish scholar. The program was inspired by Dr. Gary Price, a Fort Worth urologist with a special interest in Jewish and Christian thought.

“Robinson Crusoe is a certain kind of story. Melville’s Moby Dick is a certain kind of story,” Potok told students in conclusion. “They are the stories of the inside of human beings.”

“Just as you would be challenged on a voyage aboard the Starship Enterprise, you’re going to be knocked off balance as a result of the reading you’re doing. That’s the purpose of school as well; there are worlds out there in literature, from which you could become a richer human being.”

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