MEYLEKH GRAFSTHEYN (MELECH GRAFSTEIN) (February 19, 1893-January 17, 1960)
He was born in the town of Voshnev (Waśniów) near Apt (Opatów), Poland, into a devout, commercial household. He studied in religious elementary school and in the Lomzhe yeshiva. In 1907 he moved to Warsaw and became active in the “Little Bund.” He became acquainted with the author Shloyme Gilbert, who befriended him and introduced him to the drama circle of Hazemir. He participated, under Peretz’s direction, in the first staging of “In polish af der keyt” (Chained in the synagogue anteroom) together with M. Shveyd and T. Artsishevska. In 1912 he emigrated to the United States and became involved in various jobs. From 1913 he was living in Canada, where he was active in Jewish community and cultural life. He began writing in his youth, and in 1911 he published his first humorous correspondence piece (an image of a small town Jewish wedding) in Unzer lebn (Our life) in Warsaw. He published poems, stories, one-act plays, and reviews of books and theatrical performances in: Naye tsayt (New times) in Warsaw, Minsker yontef bleter (Minsk holiday leaves), Forverts (Forward) in New York, Idishe zhurnal (Jewish journal) in Toronto, Keneder odler (Canadian eagle) in Montreal, Kanader yugend (Canadian youth), and in the local English-language daily press. He edited issue no. 2 of Kanader yugend in Toronto (1917); Jewish Observer in London, Ontario; and Jewish Omnibus in Miami Beach. He published a special issue of Jewish Observer on Y. L. Peretz in 1945 (108 pp.), and Sholom Aleichem Panorama (London, Ontario, 1948), 415 pp. which appeared in album format with a large number of illustrations, appreciations, and translations from their writings. In 1954 he published Shloyme Gilbert’s Dertseylunbgen un drames (Stories and plays), with his own remembrances of the writer’s personality (Toronto, 336 pp.). He was also the author of a four-act melodrama entitled Bay di toyern fun elis ayland (At the gates of Ellis Island) and of the one-act plays: Tate un zun (Father and son), Baym rebens tish (At the rebbe’s table), In moyshev skeynim (In the old-age home), and others, which were staged under his direction in the theaters of the United States and Canada. He also published under the pen names: Zev Elimelekh, Ben Yerakhmiel, Zev G. Elimelekh, A. Voshniver, A. Londoner, Rabi Elimelekh, Ben Fehl, and Ben Safra-raba. In English, he used such pseudonyms as Dr. G. V. Maxwell. He was living until his death in London, Ontario, Canada.
Sources: H. M. Kayzerman, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (July 28, 1948); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Der tog (New York) (August 22, 1948); Sh. Slutski, Avrom reyzen biblyografye (Avrom Reyzen’s bibliography) (New York, 1956), no. 5362.