Religion & Beliefs

Jews for Jesus?

There’s an interesting piece over at Nextbook, about Sholem Asch, the Jewish writer best known for his work on Jesus: In 1939, at the height of Hitler's power, Asch published The Nazarene, a thick historical novel based on the life … Read More

By / April 25, 2007

There’s an interesting piece over at Nextbook, about Sholem Asch, the Jewish writer best known for his work on Jesus:

In 1939, at the height of Hitler's power, Asch published The Nazarene, a thick historical novel based on the life of Jesus. If that wasn't enough, Asch went on to pen two other installments; The Apostle, based on the life of Paul, in 1943, followed six years later by Mary. For Asch's devoted Yiddish-speaking readers, this literary move constituted nothing less than a betrayal, and their anger surely must have deepened as the books catapulted up the American best-seller lists, helped by praise from Alfred Kazin and other New York intellectuals. An inexhaustible writer with a penchant for the melodramatic, Asch was best-known for his sepia-tinged portrayals of shtetl life, serialized, to popular acclaim, in the Forward

It’s a sad story in many ways, the life of Sholem Asch. In another era, with better timing, he’d have won the Nobel prize, built bridges. Instead, he was pushed out of the fold and into the fray, eventually forced to fear for his life at the hands of “Yiddish Extremists.”  Despite the fact that he devoted the end of his life to Jewish work and died writing a novel about Jacob and Rachel.

But what’s really interesting about this story to me?  The fact that Jews still seem a lot less interested in Asch than Christians. We’re still ignoring him.  Just take a look at the comments that follow the article…

 I first read The Nazarene twenty years ago. I was a born again Christian and quite set in fundamental bible traditions. The Nazarene changed my life. The beauty of the prose along with the deep understanding of Mr. Asch literally stunned me. I have since bought and given away many copies of Mr. Asch's trilogy. The book, Mary, in my opinion, is the most touching in all of literature when it comes to showing maternal love. This book will forever be my favorite and I thank Mr. Asch for his courage to bring his work to me and all of humanity. 

Wow! Pretty powerful stuff.

Check it out and you’ll discover two interesting things:

1- a surprising number of Christians read Nextbook, and

2- few Jews seem to think this story is worth a response.  Huh!  Isn’t that weird? 

AND if this is at all interesting to you… you probably want to know that Nextbook is hosting  a Jesus conference next  week!  (April 29) 

A Jewish Jesus conferece. Awesome!