Sholem Asch was the youngest of 10 children in a Hasidic Jewish family in Poland. He was given a traditional Jewish education and, being a talented student, also began teaching himself German and other secular subjects. His parents disapproved, so he moved out of their home and settled in the town of Włocławek, where he earned a living writing letters for illiterate people. Stimulated by his wide reading in European literature, Asch began writing stories himself. In 1900, he went to Warsaw, where his first Yiddish short story,"Moyshele," appeared in the journal Der yud. He followed this with a volume of Hebrew stories in 1902 and one of Yiddish stories in 1903. That same year, he married Mathilde (Madzhe) Shapiro, the daughter of a well-to-do Hebrew teacher and poet, with whom he had two sons. In 1904, he published the first of his major works, A Shtetl, a long prose poem. His first play, Mitn shtrom (With the Current), written in Polish, was staged that year in Krakow. In 1907, Asch completed his most sensational play, Got fun nekome (G-d of Vengeance), first produced in a German version by Max Reinhardt in Berlin and later staged on Broadway. Asch made his first visit to Palestine in 1908 and wrote a series of sketches under the general title Erets Yisroel (Land of Israel), published in 1911. In 1909 and 1910, Asch made his first visit to the USA, gathering impressions that he later incorporated into his fiction. In the single year 1913, he published five major works. After the start of World War I, Asch emigrated to the USA, settling in New York, and became an American citizen. He became a regular contributer to the Forverts (Jewish Daily Forward), the most widely-read Yiddish newspaper in America, for nearly 25 years. He also became involved in public life, becoming one of the founders of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). After the war, Asch returned to live in Warsaw, but made frequent trips to Weimar Germany. By 1920, Asch had become a famous writer and in honor of his 40th birthday, a New York committee published his collected works in 12 volumes. In 1932, he was elected honorary president of the Yiddish PEN club. His monumental trilogy Farn mabl (Before the Flood), consolidated his international reputation. Written and published in stages between 1921 and 1931, it was translated into English in 1933 under the title Three Cities. A prolific writer who continually expanded the range of his work, Asch brought Yiddish literature into the mainstream of European and American culture, although he remained deeply attached to the legacy of the Jewish past. In 1938, as Nazism and World War II threatened, Asch returned to the USA. His 1939-1949 trilogy of novels, The Nazarene, The Apostle, and Mary, caused great controversy and harsh criticism from the Jewish community. During his last 10 years, Asch returned to Jewish themes and settings. His final completed novel was The Prophet (1955). At the end of his life, Asch lived in Bat Yam, a suburb of Tel Aviv.