December 25, 2:00 PM
About this Event
English translation by Caraid O’Brien.
With special guest: David Mazower (Great-grandson of Sholem Asch).
A playwright, a novelist, a short story writer and journalist, Sholem Asch is one of the most popular Jewish writers in history. Born in Kutnow, Poland in 1880, Asch had a traditional religious Jewish education. When he was 18, he moved to Warsaw and began writing in Yiddish under the influence of I.L. Peretz and soon thereafter published his first Yiddish work, Moyshele, in 1900. In 1907, he introduced his controversial drama about a Jewish brothel owner, God of Vengeance, which was denounced by many as pornographic, and served as the basis for Paula Vogel’s hit Broadway show Indecent. When his mentor the great Yiddish writer I.L. Perets heard the play at a private reading, he implored Asch to burn it. It was produced by Max Reinhardt’s company in Berlin in 1910 opening on Broadway in 1923. The portrayal of Jewish pimps and prostitutes, a lesbian relationship and the handling of a Torah in the play angered a group of Reform Jews who successfully lobbied for its closing. The company was arrested and convicted of lewd behavior in a widely publicized trial, a decision that was later overturned. The play had previously been performed in Czarist Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, France, Germany and in Yiddish in New York City without incident.
David Mazower is the Bibliographer and Editorial Director at the Yiddish Book Center and co-editor of the Center’s English-language magazine Pakn Treger. He is a regular contributor to the Digital Yiddish Theater Project, and the author of Yiddish Theatre in London (London, 1996, 2nd ed.). A frequent writer and lecturer on the life and work of his great-grandfather, Sholem Asch, his articles on a wide range of Yiddish cultural topics can be found at yiddishbookcenter.org
Writer and performer Caraid O’Brien studied Yiddish theater and performance with Luba Kadison Buloff, the last surviving member of the Vilna Troupe. Her translation of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance “set Show Word aflame” according to the Village Voice. Caraid’s book Seymour and Miriam: Yiddish Theater and Radio in the 20th Century is forthcoming from Harvard Judaica. As a translation fellow at the Yiddish Book Center, she is translating Sholem Asch: Plays of My People, a collection of four dramas that explore Jewish identity. caraidobrien.com