Sholem Asch

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Sholem Asch, 1940

Sholem Asch, born Szalom Asz (Yiddish: שלום אַש), also written Shalom Asch (November 1, 1880 – July 10, 1957) was a Polish-born American Jewish novelist, dramatist, and essayist in the Yiddish language.


Life and work

Asch was born in Kutno, Poland, one of ten children of Moszek Asz (1825 Gabin-1905 Kutno), a cattle-dealer and innkeeper, and Frajda Malka, née Widawska (1850 Łęczyca), and received a traditional Jewish education; as a young man he followed that with a more liberal education obtained at Włocławek, where he supported himself as a letter writer for the illiterate Jewish townspeople. From there he moved to Warsaw, where he met and married Mathilde Shapiro, the daughter of the Polish-Jewish writer, M.M. Shapiro. Influenced by the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment), initially Asch wrote in Hebrew, but I.L. Peretz convinced him to switch to Yiddish.

He traveled to Palestine in 1908 and the U.S. in 1910. He sat out World War I in the U.S. where he became a naturalized citizen in 1920. He returned to Poland. He later moved to France, visited Palestine again in 1936, and settled in the U.S. in 1938.

His Kiddush ha-Shem (1919) is one of the earliest historical novels in modern Yiddish literature, about the antisemitic Chmielnicki Uprising in mid-17th century Ukraine and Poland. When his 1907 drama, God of Vengeance — which is set in a brothel and whose plot features a lesbian relationship — was performed on Broadway in 1923, the entire cast was arrested and successfully prosecuted on obscenity charges, despite the fact that the play was sufficiently highly esteemed in Europe to have already been translated into German, Russian, Polish, Hebrew, Italian, Czech and Norwegian. His 1929–31 trilogy, Farn Mabul (Before the Flood, translated as Three Cities) describes early 20th century Jewish life in St. Petersburg, Warsaw, and Moscow. His Bayrn Opgrunt (1937, translated as The Precipice), is set in Germany during the hyperinflation of the 1920s. Dos Gezang fun Tol (The Song of the Valley) is about the halutzim (Jewish-Zionist pioneers in Palestine), and reflects his 1936 visit to that region.

Sholem Asch

A celebrated writer in his own lifetime, a 12-volume set of his collected works was published in the early 1920s; in 1932 he was awarded the Polish Republic's Polonia Restituta decoration and was elected honorary president of the Yiddish PEN Club. However, he was later to offend Jewish sensibilities with his 1939–1949 trilogy, The Nazarene, The Apostle, and Mary, which dealt with New Testament subjects. The Forward, New York's leading Yiddish-language newspaper, not only dropped him as a writer, but also openly attacked him for promoting Christianity.

Asch spent most of his last two years in Bat Yam near Tel Aviv, Israel (although he died in London). His house in Bat Yam is now the Sholem Asch Museum. The bulk of his library, containing rare Yiddish books and manuscripts, including the manuscripts of some of his own works, is held at Yale University.

His sons were Moszek Asz Moses "Moe" Asch (born February 12, 1905, Warsaw, died October 19, 1986, USA), the founder and head of Folkways Records, and Natan Asz/Nathan Asch (born 1902, Warsaw, died 1964, USA), also a writer.


  • A Shtetl ("The Village"), 1904 or earlier. Story.
  • Mitn Shtrom (With the Stream), 1904 novel and play
  • Got fun Nekomeh (God of Vengeance), 1907, play
  • Reb Shloyme Nogid, 1913, novel
  • Motke Ganev (Motke the Thief), 1916, novel
  • Mary, 1917, play
  • Der Veg tsu Zikh (The Way to Oneself), 1917, play
  • Motke Ganev (Motke the Thief), 1917, play
  • Onkl Mozes, 1918 (translated into English 1938), play
  • Kiddush ha-Shem, 1919 (translated into English 1926), novel
  • Di Muter, (The Mother), 1919 (translated into English 1930)
  • Di Kishufmakherin fun Kastilien (The Witch of Castile), 1921
  • Urteyl (Death Sentence), 1924
  • Khaym Lederers Tsurikkumen (The Return of Khaym Lederer), 1927
  • Farn Mabul trilogy (Before the Flood) 1929-31, translated as Three Cities, 1933
  • Gots Gefangene (God's Captives), 1933
  • Der T'hilim Yid, 1934, translated as: Salvation
  • The War Goes On, 1935
  • Bayrn Opgrunt, 1937, translated as: The Precipice
  • The Mother, 1937, novel
  • Three Novels, 1938
  • Dos Gezang fun Tol (The Song of the Valley), 1938 (translated into English, 1939)
  • The Nazarene, 1939, novel
  • What I Believe 1941, essay 201p.
  • Children of Abraham, 1942, short stories
  • My Personal Faith' ' , 1942, Published: London, George Rutledge & Sons, Ltd
  • The Apostle, 1943, novel
  • One Destiny: An Epistle to the Christians, 1945,[1][2][3]
  • East River, 1946,[4]
  • Tales of My People, 1948, short stories
  • Mary, 1949, novel, unrelated to his earlier work of the same name
  • Salvation, 1951
  • Moses, 1951, novel
  • A Passage in the Night, 1953
  • The Prophet, 1955



External links