Sholem Asch (Yiddish: שלום אַש, Polish: Szalom Asz; 1 November 1880 – 10 July 1957), also written Shalom Ash, was a Polish-Jewish novelist, dramatist, and essayist in the Yiddish language who settled in the United States.
Born into a Hasidic family, Sholem Asch received a traditional Jewish education. Considered the designated scholar of his siblings, his parents dreamed of him becoming a rabbi and sent him to the town’s best religious school (or cheder), where the wealthy families sent their children. There, he spent most of his childhood studying the Talmud, and would later study the Bible and the Haggadah on his own time….
In 1904, Asch released one of his most well-known works, A shtetl, an idyllic portrait of traditional Polish-Jewish life. In January 1905, he released the first play of his incredibly successful play-writing career, Tsurikgekumen (Coming Back).
He wrote the drama Got fun nekome (God of Vengeance) in the winter of 1906 in Cologne, Germany. It is about a Jewish brothel owner who attempts to become respectable by commissioning a Torah scroll and marrying off his daughter to a yeshiva student. Set in a brothel, the play includes Jewish prostitutes and a lesbian scene. I. L. Peretz famously said of the play after reading it: “Burn it, Asch, burn it!” Instead, Asch went to Berlin to pitch it to director Max Reinhardt and actor Rudolf Schildkraut, who produced it at the Deutsches Theater.
God of Vengeance opened on March 19, 1907 and ran for six months, and soon was translated and performed in a dozen European languages. It was first brought to New York by David Kessler in 1907. The audience mostly came for Kessler, and they booed the rest of the cast. The New York production sparked a major press war between local Yiddish papers, led by the Orthodox Tageplatt and the radical Forverts. Orthodox papers referred to God of Vengeance as “filthy,” “immoral,” and “indecent,” while radical papers described it as “moral,” “artistic,” and “beautiful”. –Wikipedia
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