7.02.2021 - online

Meet the Family: Sholem Asch

A board: Shalom Ash's portrait in black and white, on the right side title: "Meet the Family"
photo: courtesy of David Mazower

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett meets David Mazower, great-grandson of the iconoclastic Yiddish writer Sholem Asch.

"Meet the Family" – online conversations with the descendants of distinguished Polish Jews, moderated by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Ronald S. Lauder Chief Curator of POLIN Museum’s Core Exhibition

The first "Meet the Family" conversation is with Sholem Asch’s great-grandson, David Mazower, Director and Bibliographer at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, and former BBC journalist. We explore the life and oeuvre of Sholem Asch and what he means to David, his great-grandson, who is devoted to his memory and legacy. We also reflect on what Asch means to his readers in Poland and the world today.

The "Meet the Family" series accompanies the new Legacy gallery at POLIN Museum. The 26 individuals featured in the Legacy gallery, when considered together, form a collective portrait of Polish Jews and their achievements. The “Meet the Family” series will go beyond the 26 luminaries featured in the gallery and broaden the discussion to consider how their lives illuminate the history of Polish Jews, and how the history of Polish Jews illuminates their lives. The series will offer a unique opportunity to meet their descendants, some of whom are devoting their own lives to preserving the legacy of their distinguished forebears. 

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett talks with them about their lives, work, and legacy. These conversations will explore how those who achieved so much overcame limitations, pursued their goals, and took responsibility for themselves and others. May those we honor in these conversations inspire us today and in the future.

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is Ronald S. Lauder Chief Curator of the Core Exhibition at Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews and University Professor Emerita at New York University. Her books include Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage; Image Before My Eyes: A Photographic History of Jewish Life in Poland, 1864–1939 (with Lucjan Dobroszycki); They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of Jewish Life in Poland Before the Holocaust (with Mayer Kirshenblatt); The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times (with Jonathan Karp); and Anne Frank Unbound: Media, Imagination, Memory (with Jeffrey Shandler, among others. She has received honorary doctorates from the Jewish Theological Seminary, University of Haifa, and Indiana University, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was decorated with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of the Republic of Poland. She is the recipient of the 2020 Dan David Prize. She serves on Advisory Boards for the Council of American Jewish Museums, Jewish Museum Vienna, Jewish Museum Berlin, and the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, and advises on museum and exhibition projects in Lithuania, Belarus, Albania, Israel, and the United States.

David Mazower is Editorial Director and Bibliographer at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. He is the co-editor of the Center’s English-language magazine, “Pakn Treger,” and is responsible for the Center’s holdings of several hundred thousand Yiddish books and related collections. Other editorial projects for the Center include developing a new core exhibition, “Yiddish: A Global Culture,” scheduled to open in 2022, and “Bronx Bohemians,” a blog about the New York salon of Yiddish poet Bertha Kling. For more than two decades, he was an award-winning BBC News journalist and program editor, and also worked at the Jewish Museum, London, where he produced a major exhibition about Yiddish theatre in Britain. He is a regular contributor to the Digital Yiddish Theater Project and has published many articles about Yiddish culture, Jewish art, and British Jewish immigrant history. Great-grandson of the Yiddish writer Sholem Asch, he is a frequent lecturer about Asch and is closely involved with the Szalom Asz Festival in Asch’s birthplace, Kutno. He is also a keen collector of Judaica, especially books, photographs, and metalwork.

Sholem Asch (1880-1957) was one of the most prolific, popular and influential modern Yiddish writers. His many plays, novels and short stories, which spanned the entirety of Jewish history, while reflecting contemporary world affairs, focused especially on Jewish life in Poland. Born in 1880 in Kutno, Poland, Asch moved to New York in 1914 and became an American citizen in 1920. He lived in France for most of the 1920s and 1930s, moved back to the United States in 1939, and settled in Israel in 1955. Asch was the first Yiddish writer to reach a world audience in translation, and several of his novels were bestsellers in the United States. Throughout his life, Asch was also a controversial and outspoken public figure, deeply involved in Jewish communal life, and connected to many of the major Jewish personalities of the twentieth century.

To learn more about Sholem Asch >>,,