3. WHAT IS THE SHOLEM ASCH CONTROVERSY?

Certain Jewish critics, however, found some of his work disloyal and sacrilegious.

Asch's Christological trilogy—The Nazarene (1939), The Apostle (1943) and Mary
(1949), which are novelized accounts of the Gospels—prompted some Jews to allege
that he had renounced his faith and turned his back on his fellow Jews. His detractors
felt that the publication of the first two books during the Holocaust, at a time
when Jews were being put to death for their religious beliefs, promoted antipathy
toward Jews. Asch said he intended to do just the opposite. Such rebuke distressed
Asch, who took little comfort in his continued popularity among non-Jews.

During World War I, Asch lived in the United States, where his brothers and sisters
had settled. His experience led to several novels, including East River (1946), which
chronicled the efforts of Jewish immigrants to adjust to American life in New York City.
Called a "novel of the American spirit" by The New York Times Book Review,
East River tells a story about enmity and eventual harmony among immigrants of
different religions and cultures living within a community on Manhattan's East Side.
The issue of marriage between a Jew and a Catholic surfaces, and the potential
union speaks to Asch's hopes of what his work of some sixty volumes might serve
to accomplish: a rapprochement between Jews and Christians. Asch died in London
in 1957.

Our library has two books about this controversy: Ben Siegel’s The Controversial 
Sholem Asch; and one in Yiddish: Chaim Lieberman’s Ouybyohre (Christological). 
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