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<i>God of Vengence</i> by Scholem Asch
God of Vengence by Scholem Asch

Controversial Classic Yiddish Play on Stage in Montreal

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A yiddish play that once landed its producer and cast in court on obscenity charges is being staged in Montreal. Scholem Asch wrote God of Vengence in 1907. It's a dark tale about a Jewish brothel owner whose one dream is to marry off his daughter to a rabbi's son. But those dreams are thwarted when the daughter falls in love with one of his prostitutes and is stolen away by a rival pimp. Upon reading the manuscript, the Yiddish literary lion I.J. Peretz is purported to have screamed, "Burn it Asch, Burn it!," so controversial was the play's subject matter.

The play was an instant classic on the Yiddish scene, but it caused a scandal 15 years later when it was translated into English and put on Broadway. Leading rabbis decried the lesbian-love storyline as anti-semitic, and an on-stage smooch between two girls got the cast dragged into court and convicted of performing "an obscene and immoral play."

You can see God of Vengence in the original Yiddish - with English and French subtitles - at the Leonor and Alvin Segal Theatre, 5170 Cote Ste. Catherine Rd., Montreal until June 22. Box Office: (514) 739-7944. Actress Cheryl Blum told Gregory Warner that their audiences don't always realize what they're getting into.

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