MORRIS (MOYSHE) MEYER (MYER) (January 2, 1879-October 20, 1944)
He was born in the village of Dărmănești, Bacău region, Romania. He studied in religious elementary school and in a Romanian primary school in the town of Moinești, later attending for a short time a high school in Bacău, but because of the oppressive conditions under which his parents lived, he had to leave this school and go to work (he was a salesman in a dry-goods shop). At age fourteen he traveled to Bucharest, worked there as a tin worker and served as honorary secretary of the union. At age sixteen he began writing in Romanian for the socialist Munsa (?), the anarchist Revista Ideei (Idea magazine), and the Zionist Viitozul (?). In 1899 he debuted in Yiddish with poems and sketches in Hayoets (The advisor). In 1901 he edited (using the pen name Ben-Meyer) a radical Zionist weekly newspaper, Degel maḥne yehuda (Banner of Judah’s camp). In 1902 he departed for London, and there he contributed to the biweekly anarchist Frayhayt (Freedom), of which he edited six issues himself. In 1903 he moved to Manchester and from there wrote for the weekly Arbayter fraynd (Workers’ friend) in London and Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor) and Tsukunft (Future) in New York (his last work there, among other items, was an essay on the agrarian question and the Jewish question in Romania). In order to make a living, he engaged in various trades: he was a typesetter, a cigarette maker, and a cane maker, and he worked in women’s coats. In 1906 he returned to London, and from that point he turned professionally to journalism. For fifteen months he edited the biweekly, later weekly, periodical Di naye tsayt (The new times) and wrote notices about workers’ lives in the Yiddish section of Jewish World. In 1907, after Di naye tsayt went under, he published two issues of the monthly Der sotsyal-demokrat (The social democrat). In 1908 he was editor, later also manager, of the daily newspaper Der idisher zhurnal (The Jewish journal), in which he wrote a novel Der tage-bukh fun a idishen korbn fun froyen-handel (The diary of a Jewish victim of women’s business), while at the same time publishing fourteen issues of a weekly newspaper Roman zhurnal (Fiction journal), in which, aside from essays on Edgar Allan Poe, John Milton, and others, he also published the historical series Idishe byografyen (Jewish biographies) and Felker un lender (Peoples and countries). Over the years 1910-1913, he was the London correspondent for Forverts (Forward), Varhayt (Truth), and Der fihrer (The leader)—in New York. At the end of 1913 he became the publisher and editor of the daily Di tsayt (The times) in London, which because of its connection to the largest news agency and thanks to the contributions from Sholem Asch, Avrom Reyzen, Bal-Makhshoves, and others, raised the level of the Yiddish press in England. In 1914 Meyer also published a family newspaper entitled Abend-nayes (Evening news). In 1911 he had served as the literary councilor to the Yiddish folk theater in London (founded by Y. Vinogradov and Ben Ami), for which he translated Karl Gutskov’s Uriel akosta (Uriel Acosta [original: Uriel’ Akosta]) into Yiddish. For Zigmund Faynman’s theater, he translated: Shaylok from Shakespeare’s character Shylock; and a Romanian play Zhurnalistn un aktyorn (Journalists and actors). Meyer often gave public lectures and stood in the middle of all the many community undertakings in London. During WWI he organized a committee to defend Jewish interests and served as chair of the workers’ fund, which in its five years of existence supported Jewish war victims. He was a member of the Zionist “Political Consultation Committee” during the Balfour Declaration. From 1919 he was a member of the Jewish “Board of Deputies” and from 1920 vice-chair of the Federation of Ukrainian Jews in London. That same year—as a member of the executive committee of the Labor Zionists—he took part in the Labor Zionist conference in Vienna. He later switched to the Zionist Federation in England, and from 1922 he became its vice-chair and delegate to Zionist congresses. From 1922 he was a member of the Joint Foreign Committee. For many years he was active in the Jewish labor movement and the secretary and organizer of the Women’s Tailors’ Union in London, and he made an effort to found a Jewish social-democratic association in London. In 1937 he participated in the conference of the Jewish Cultural Congress in Paris, and he was chair of the Jewish writers’ association in London. He also wrote theater reviews under such pen names as: Shtekhayzn, Kritikus, and the like. In book form, he wrote: Karl marks, zayn leben, zayne lehren un zayn virkung (Karl Marx, his life, his teachings, and his impact), on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Marx’s death (London, 1907), 48 pp.; A idishe utopye, a plan fun rekonstruktsye farn idishen folk (A Jewish utopia, a plan for reconstruction of the Jewish people) (London, 1917), 160 pp.; Dzhordzh elyot, di englishe nevie fun der renesans fun idishen folk (George Eliot, the English prophetess of the renaissance of the Jewish people) (London, 1920), 98 pp.; R. yisrael bal shem tov, historishe fakten, mayses, legenden, vertlekh, gedanken un leren, ibergegeben un baloykhten in gayst fun geshikhte, psikhologye un etik (Rabbi Israel Bal Shem Tov, historical facts, stories, legends, aphorisms, thoughts, and teachings, communicated and illuminated in spirit by history, psychology, and ethics) (London, 1942), 243 pp.; Moyshe rabeynu, bafrayer, firer, gezetsgeber, un zayn kamf farn leben, historishe fakten, mayses, legenden, gedanken un leren, in likht fun moderne analize metoden (Moses, liberator, leader, lawgiver, and his struggle for life, historical facts, stories, legends, thoughts, and teachings, in light of modern analytical methods) (London, 1943), 95 pp.; Idish teater in london, 1902-1942 (Yiddish theater in London, 1902-1942) (London, 1943), 336 pp. Into Yiddish he translated: K. Rakovski’s Di treyd yunyons, zeyere oyfgaben un kampfs mitlen (The trade unions, their tasks and means of struggle) (London, 1907), 82 pp.; Maurice Maeterlinck’s Der bloyer foygl (The blue bird [original: L’Oiseau bleu]) (London, 1910), 111 pp.; Berthold Auerbach’s Vos iz glik? (What is happiness? [original: Was Ist Glück?]) (London, 1910), 73 pp.; Molière’s comedy Di koketkes (The coquettes [original: Les précieuses ridicules]) (London, 1911), 48 pp.; two one-act plays by H. Heiermann, Numer 80 (Number 80) and Begnedigung (Amnesty). Using the pen name Bromberg (the family name of his wife Rochelle, who helped him a great deal in his career), he translated Arnold Dodel, Moyshe rabeynu oder darvin (Moses or Darwin). Many of his works remain unpublished in book form. He died in London.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934); A. S. Lirik, “Der redaktor un der lezer” (The editor and the reader), Y. Podruzhnik, “Zhurnalizm un klal-tueray” (Journalism and community leadership), N. Frank, “Fun der gas tsu der gas” (From the street to the street), Y. Kapitantshik, “17 yor tetikeyt mit moris meyer” (Seventeen years with Morris Meyer), and Y. K. Goldblum, “Natsyonale dertsiung” (National education)—all in a Morris Meyer jubilee volume (London, 1928); Avrom Reyzen, in Tsukunft (New York) (January 1931); Kh. M. Kayzerman, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (October 25, 1944); M. Ginzburg, in Keneder odler (October 26, 1944); M. Edelboym, in Di tsayt (London) (October 28, 1944); N. Shtentsel, in Heftn (London) (November 1944); H. Schneiderman, “Necrology 1944,” Jewish Book Annual 5705.