“Chanukah on a Ship to America”, by Sholem Asch
ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – This week is Chanukah, so we are going to celebrate with a Chanukah story.
Sholem Asch was born in Kutno, Poland, in 1880. In 1899 he moved to Warsaw, where he wrote stories, plays, poems, and novels in Hebrew and Yiddish. He emigrated to New York City in 1914 and began to write for Yiddish newspapers. His most famous play, The God of Vengeance, was released in 1907 and quickly translated into many languages. It was very successful in Berlin and other European cities, but when it opened in English in New York in 1923, the themes of prostitution and homosexuality caused such a scandal that the cast and producers were arrested on obscenity charges. The acclaimed 2015 play Indecent, by Paula Vogel, recounts the controversy surrounding God of Vengeance, which was revived in Yiddish in 2016.
Asch also wrote novels. His most famous ones to English readers are East River, which spent more than six months on the New York Times Best Seller List, and the trilogy, The Nazarene, The Apostle , and Mary, in which he attempted to portray Jesus, Paul, and Mary in a way that bridged Christianity and Judaism. However, this antagonized a lot of American Jews, and Asch moved to Israel in 1956. He died in London in 1957.
(NOTE: I would like to dedicate this program to the memory of my mother, Rose Jimenez, who passed away at the age of 97 in August. She was bilingual and a lifelong Yiddishist, and Chanukah on a Ship to America is one of several stories that she translated especially for English Corner. Until shortly before her death, she volunteered at her local JCC, reading Yiddish stories to her beloved vinkl (Yiddish Corner). She is greatly missed. May her memory be a blessing.)