Asch, Sholem, 1880-1957

Alternative names
Birth 1880-11-01
Death 1957-08-01
Yiddish, English

Biographical notes:

Sholem Asch, Yiddish writer. John L. De Forest served as his secretary in the 1940s.

From the description of John L. De Forest / Sholem Asch collection, 1941-1995 (bulk 1941-1943). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702135776

Sholem Asch, Yiddish novelist, dramatist, essayist, activist and short story writer, was born in Poland in 1880 and emigrated to the United States in 1910. Asch is known both for popularizing Yiddish literature internationally and for the controversy that resulted from the publication of his trilogy, Der Man fun Notseres (The Nazarene, 1939), Der Sheliekh (The Apostle, 1943), and Meri (Mary, 1949). In these works Asch explored the origins of Christianity from a Jewish perspective. Accusations from within the American Jewish community that he was preaching conversion to Christianity prompted a self-imposed exile in 1954 from the United States to Israel. Asch died in London three years later.

Bernhard Knollenberg, the Librarian of Yale University, asked Asch to donate the manuscript of Der Man fun Notseres (The Nazarene) to the Yale University Library in 1939. Asch complied, explaining in the introduction to the Catalogue of Hebrew and Yiddish Manuscripts and Books from the Library of Sholem Asch (New Haven: Yale University Library, 1945) that the gift of this manuscript to Yale precluded the placement of his manuscripts and books at any other library: "I knew full well that the rest of my manuscripts must come there, too, to the same place where the main product of my life-work is reposing. And where my own manuscripts have found a home, there too must dwell my books." Asch continues, explaining why he chose to grant Knollenberg's request:

I have sought a home for my collection not in a Jewish

institution, but in a general American one. I believe it is

the duty of American Jewry to rebuild the institutions of

Jewish learning in the new hospitable home which they have

found.... Jews must also see to it that the spirit of

Judaism, Jewish learning, should be properly and worthily

represented in the general temples of knowledge in the land.

In 1944, through the generosity of Louis M. Rabinowitz, the University Library acquired Asch's collection of manuscripts and books, designating it the Asch-Rabinowitz Collection. This immensely rich library documenting European Jewish life and culture from the 15th through the early 20th century, is well described in the catalogue quoted above, compiled by Dr. Leon Nemoy, Curator of Judaica at Yale. Asch himself provided the summation of the scholarly importance of the his own papers included in the Asch-Rabinowitz Collection, in the catalogue's introduction: "The leaves of my manuscripts represent the days of my life, for I had no other life outside of my works."

From the guide to the Sholem Asch papers, 1926-1949, 1923-1949, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)


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  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Archives
  • Authors, Yiddish--Archives
  • American literature--Jewish authors
  • Authors, Yiddish--United States--Archives
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--United States--Archives


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  • United States (as recorded)