ZELIG MELAMED (1886-August 9, 1946)
He was born in the Lithuanian settlement of Glukhe. He attended religious elementary schools, while at the same time studying Hebrew and general subject matter. He later studied in Königsberg, Germany, and there he established student groupings among which he disseminated Jewish literature. In his youth he was a fervent “lover of Zion” (Ḥovev Tsiyon); in 1904-1905, he was active in the Labor Zionist movement in Vitebsk, later switching to the Jewish Socialist Labor Party (“Seymovtses”) and for a time was affiliated with the Bund. He was a highly capable organizer. He founded circles for Yiddish cultural work among the trade unions and paid close attention to spreading and popularizing the Yiddish book. After the founding of B. Kletskin Publishers in Vilna, Melamed became one of its directors and, on behalf of the press, made several trips abroad. In 1912-1913, he traveled through the Jewish cities and towns to collect subscriptions for the monthly journal Di yudishe velt (The Jewish world)—published first in St. Petersburg and from 1913, under the editorship of Shmuel Niger, in Vilna; thanks to his energy, the circulation of the journal approached 6,000 copies. In 1914 he established in Vilna the children’s magazine Grininke beymelekh (Little green trees), edited by Sh. Bastomski. He was living in the United States during WWI. With the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917, he returned to Russia, lived in Kiev, where he was a member of the central committee and of the executive bureau of Kiev’s Kultur-lige (Culture league)—a kind of educational ministry with 105 departments and 300 institutions in all realms of Jewish cultural activity. When the Communists took over the Kultur-lige in Kiev, he moved to Warsaw (1919) and was (1921) a cofounder and a participant in the Kultur-lige there and of its publishing house. In 1925 he went back to Kletskin in Warsaw and Vilna. While active in Warsaw with this work, he raised book sales from 5,000 to 10,000 copies. He also composed fictional works and journalistic articles for: Leben un visenshaft (Life and science), edited by A. Litvin in Vilna; Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw; and other publications in Russia, Poland, and America. He visited Argentina, 1927-1928, on behalf of the Yiddish book and as plenipotentiary for YIVO. In 1933 he was linked in Warsaw to the journal Globus (Globe), edited by A, Tsaytlin. He returned to New York in 1935, and there was tied for a time with the territorialist journal Afn shvel (At the threshold), edited by Ben-Adir. During WWII he worked as a shipbuilder for the war effort. He was active in America in the Jewish Labor Committee and as a member of the Jewish National Labor Alliance. He died of heart palpitations in New York.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; M. M., in Afn shvel (New York) (October-November 1946); Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 2 (Montreal, 1947); N. Mayzil, Geven amol a lebn, dos yidishe kultur-lebn in poyln tsvishn beyde velt-milkhomes (There was once a life, Jewish cultural life in Poland between the two world wars) (Buenos Aires, 1951); B. Kutsher, Geven amol varshe (As Warsaw once was) (Paris, 1955), see index; Kh. Sh. Kazdan, Fun kheyder un shkoles biz tsisho (From religious and secular primary schools to Tsisho) (Mexico City, 1956); A. Golomb, A halber yorhundert yidishe dertsiung (A half-century of Jewish education) (Rio de Janeiro, 1957), p. 97; Der veg (Mexico City) (April 25, 1964); Y. Varshavski (Bashevis), in Forverts (New York) (August 19, 1962; July 17, 1964); archives of YIVO in New York; obituary notices in the Yiddish press.