MOYSHE MERKIN (b. May 3, 1887)
A brother of Max Erik, he was born in Shlov (Szkłów), Mohilev district, Byelorussia. His mother was a sister of Yitskhok Peysakhzon, one of the founders of the Bund, and a granddaughter of Rabbi Shneur Zalmen the “Baal Hatanya” (Master of the Tanya). When he was still a child, he was brought to Sosnovits (Sosnowiec), Poland, where he received an education befitting the Jewish Enlightenment. For a time his Hebrew teacher was Ḥaim Nachman Bialik who was living in Sosnowiec at the time. In 1904 he made the acquaintance of Dr. Chaim Zhitlovsky, and under the latter’s influence he was attracted to socialism, became a member of the Zionist Socialist Labor Party, and soon became the leader of the party in Zaglembye (Zagłębie) district. He spent some time in prison for his political activities, and he was barred from the Sosnowiec senior high school, although later he was allowed to sit for the examination as an external student and graduated from the school in 1907. He studied political economy in the St. Petersburg Polytechnicum and graduated in 1913. His doctoral dissertation concerned the social and economic problems of labor in the Dombrovo industrial district. He wrote for various Russian newspapers and journals on economic questions. In 1915 he was editing the journals Ekonomicheskii vestnik (Economic herald) and Khlebnii vetsnik (Granary herald), and he contributed work to the newspaper Rus’ (Russia). At the same time, he was active in the Zionist socialist movement and served as chairman of the St. Petersburg committee of the party. In 1917 he graduated from the law faculty of St. Petersburg University and went on to become a lawyer. As the representative of the Zionist Socialist Party after the Revolution of 1917, he was a member of the Petersburg Soviet of Workers and Soldiers. Until 1923 he worked as a lawyer on the Northwestern railway and ran criminal trials. On several occasions he was arrested by the Soviet authorities and in 1923 escaped from Soviet Russia. Until 1925 he lived in Danzig. That year he moved to Berlin, and in 1934 he left for Paris and from there in 1935 immigrated to Chile in South America. There he contributed to the local Yiddish press. Together with M. D. Giser, Yitskhok Blumshteyn, and Yankev Pilovski, he contributed to the publication and editing of Pasifik (Pacific), “monthly journal for literature, art, criticism, and cultural issues” in Santiago; he also placed work in Dos idishe vort (The Yiddish word), and he wrote for the Spanish-language press as well. From 1936 he was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was a regular contributor to Di idishe tsaytung (The Jewish newspaper), and published articles as well in: Der shpigl (The mirror) in Buenos Aires; Folksblat (People’s newspaper) in Montevideo; Der veg (The way) in Mexico City; Yidishe prese (Jewish press) in Brazil; Der tog (The day) in New York; Havaner lebn (Havana life) in Cuba; and Di naye tsayt (The new time) in Buenos Aires; among other serials. In book form, he published: Siluetn fun dorem-amerike (Silhouettes from South America) (Buenos Aires, 1946), 245 pp., “to the lustrous memory of my late brother Zalmen Merkin” (Max Erik). He also wrote “Yidn in der argentiner provints” (Jews in the Argentinian provinces), fragments of a monograph, in Antologye fun der yidisher literatur in argentine (Anthology of Jewish literature in Argentina) (Buenos Aires, 1944), pp. 851-60. On several occasions from 1937 he was elected president of the Argentinian Jewish writers’ association named for H. D. Nomberg. He was active in ORT (Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades), in Argentina’s YIVO, the Argentinian division of the World Jewish Culture Congress, and the society for secular schools. On assignment for ORT he made frequent trips through the countries of Latin America and published his travel narratives in the press.
Sources: Sh. Rozhanski, Dos yidishe gedrukte vort in argentina (The published Yiddish word in Argentina) (Buenos Aires, 1941), pp. 99, 102, 184; N. Khain, A rayze iber tsentral- un dorem-amerike (A voyage through Central and South America) (New York, 1942), p. 248; Antologye fun der yidisher literatur in argentine (Anthology of Jewish literature in Argentina) (Buenos Aires, 1944), pp. 851-52; Dr. M. Shor, in Yivo-bleter (New York) 29.1 (1947); Ort-yoyvl almanakh (ORT jubilee almanac) (Havana, 1950); Der shpigl (Buenos Aires) (June-July 1958); A. Oyerbakh, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (March 16, 1959); Y. Botoshanski, in Almanakh (Almanac) (Buenos Aires: Association of Knitting Factories, 1961), pp. 297-98.