Philip Roth's "The Conversion of the Jews"

Resource Kit by
Josh Lambert

Module Content



Philip Roth’s short story, “The Conversion of the Jews,” written and published when the author was in his mid-twenties, helped to establish his reputation as one of the most exciting writers in America. It was first published in The Paris Review, in the spring of 1958, and then included in Roth’s collection Goodbye, Columbus and Five Stories (1959), which won both the National Book Award and the National Jewish Book Award. In focusing on the conflict between a Hebrew school student and his teacher, the story presents some of the central questions that might perplex and challenge modern Jewish teens, in an accessible, funny, and thought-provoking form; scholar of Yiddish and Jewish-American literature Jeremy Dauber has called it “a deep dive into American Jewish theology.”

This kit offers background sources on the religious questions raised by the story, some audio clips, and other multimedia resources to complement discussions of the story.

Cover image: Detail of one of Roger Barr's illustrations of "The Conversion of the Jews," which appeared alongside it in its original publication in The Paris Review.