5: Letter, Sholem Asch arguing in defense of his play, 1923.
This letter originally appeared in a pamphlet published in defense of the play in 1923 by God of Vengeance’s producer and lawyer Harry Weinberger, while the case against him and the performers, charged with presenting an “obscene and impure drama,” was underway. The pamphlet was handed out to audiences attending God of Vengeance at the Apollo Theatre on West 42nd Street.
Suggested Activity: In small groups, discuss: how does Asch defend himself against the charges of writing an “immoral” play? What is his argument, and do you feel it is persuasive? What sort of “Jewish writer” does he not consider himself to be? How would you characterize his own relationship to Jewish characters and Jewish themes in his work, based on what you have read of God of Vengeance and on his own comments in this letter?
Source: Sholem Asch, “Open Letter by Sholom Asch, Author of ‘The God of Vengeance,’" in pamphlet, “‘The God of Vengeance’: Is the Play Immoral? – Is it a Great Drama?,” (New York City: Published by Harry Weinberger, ca. March or April 1923), re-published in David Mazower, “Sholem Asch: God of Vengeance is Not an Immoral Play,” (Digital Yiddish Theatre Project, January 16, 2017), <www.yiddishstage.org/an-open-letter-by-sholom-asch-author-of-got-fun-nekome>, accessed February 3, 2018.