ISAAC STONE (1855-May 1916)
The Anglicized name of Yitskhok Shteyn, he immigrated to London in his youth and worked as a tailor in a sweatshop. In the 1870s he was a member of Arn’s Liberman’s Jewish Socialist Union. He and Nosn Berlin, a raincoat maker, were among the first Yiddish writers who emerged from the sweatshops. Stone contributed to Morris Winchevsky’s weekly newspaper Der poylisher idel (The Polish Jew) and later to Arbayter fraynd (Labor’s friend)—both in London. In his article “Treyd-yunyonizm un sotsyalizm” (Trade unionism and socialism), published in the first issue of Arbayter fraynd, he wrote: “In a word: the trade unions can today bring workers very little they can use; they even have a directly harmful impact by virtue of their misguiding English workers from the right path which leads to socialism.” Later, though, he changed his stance and in his writings led a campaign for his “Jewish Tailoring Workers’ Union.” He wrote a story that appeared in a separate pamphlet—one copy is preserved in the Hebrew University Library—entitled:
Who toiled sadly for several years in hard labor in London and from whose drudgery he collapsed and very quickly departed this world. Before his death he wrote down his entire life story to demonstrate a proper moral for all workers in tailoring.
Published by the Jewish Tailoring Workers’ Union in the year the Jewish laborer contemplates your poor state of affairs.
The story is accompanied by a motto, an eleven-verse poem, “Der fershklafter idel” (The enslaved Jew). “Isaac Stone,” noted Kalmen Marmor, “was perhaps the first to write a labor song in Yiddish.” The song sings of the labor exile being bitterer than the Jewish exile: “But just listen, Jew: What you think is false. No one is in exile, if he is but a man and this is no exile as it may seem, compared to the whole labor exile which does exist.” The story was written in the form of a biography of a London tailor, named Motl, who died at a young age, and a worker finds the dead man’s writings. In his last years, Stone served as editor of Lidzer ekspres (Leeds express), an Orthodox newspaper, in which he struggled against anti-religious propaganda in Jewish life. He contributed to Moyshe Bril’s Shulamis. He was well known by the pen name “Der zokn” (The old man). He published books on religious themes: Di eybige milkhome tsvishn yudenthum un ihr shtifkind (The eternal war between Judaism and its stepchild), a dialogue, “taken from…historical and Biblical sources by Isaac Stone (the old man), parts 1-3 (London, 1911-1912)”; and Yeshu hanotsri (Jesus the Christian), “an answer to the soul-stealers” (London: Idisher zhurnal), 32 pp. He died in London.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2, under the name “Ston”; obituary in American Jewish Yearbook (1916/1917); Kalmen Marmor, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (October 16, 1938); Marmor, in 10-yoriker yubiley fun internatsyonaln arbeter-ordn (Ten-year jubilee of the International Labor Order) (New York, 1940); Shmuel Niger, “Imigrantn literatur” (Immigrant literature), Di tsukunft (New York) (June 1940); Niger, Dertseylers un romanistn (Storytellers and novelists), 2 parts (New York: Tsiko, 1946), pp. 141-43; K. Roker, In shturem (In the storm) (Buenos Aires, 1952), see index.