Wednesday 20 June 2018


MEYLEKH EPSHTEYN (MELECH EPSTEIN) (March 19, 1889-late July 1979)
            He was born in Rozhinoy (Ruzhany), Grodno district, Byelorussia.  His father, Khayim Epltreger, was a schoolteacher in the municipal Talmud Torah.  Meylekh studied in religious elementary school and yeshiva and Hebrew and Russian with private tutors.  At age thirteen he left home and went to Bialystok.  As a youngster he entered circles of the Minsk Labor Zionist party and actively took part in Jewish labor issues in Bialystok, Warsaw, and elsewhere.  He spent time in a Russian prison for his political activities.  Around 1908-1910, he was one of the founders and leaders of the proletarian musical-dramatic association “Harfe” (Harp) in Lodz, and he later served as secretary of the Jewish Literary Society (St. Petersburg division), under the chairmanship of Y. L. Perets, until the society was closed down by the police.  After the failure of the Zionist socialist organization in Warsaw, in late 1913 he departed for the United States, and there he contributed to socialist-territorialist organs.  Initially he worked as a teacher in a national radical school in New York, later for Tog (Day) in New York, before moving over to Haynt (Today), edited by Herman Bernshteyn, and thereafter he wrote for Di tsayt (The times), the daily organ of the Labor Zionists, in 1921; he went on to join the Communist Party, was one of the founders of Morgn-frayhayt (Morning freedom) and from 1925 to 1928 its editor-in-chief, and he served on the editorial board of the Communist monthly Der hamer (The hammer).  In 1930 he traveled on assignment for the Communist Party to Soviet Russia.  In 1936 he went on a secret mission for the Party to the land of Israel to discover the true facts surrounding the Arab-Jewish struggle.  He left the Communist Party in August 1939 in protest against the Stalin-Hitler accord.  After that, he began writing for: Forverts (Forward), Tsukunft (Future), and Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor), among other serials, in New York, as well as for the Anglophone Jewish press.  In 1940 he wrote for the Cloakmakers’ Union a history of the general strike of 1910.  For a time he worked for International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, was editor of the periodical Hofenung (Hope), and published (1934-1940) for the League Against Fascism.  For a series of years, he played an important role as a Yiddish journalist.  His books include: Sako-vanzeti, di geshikhte fun zeyer martirertum (Sacco-Vanzetti, the story of their martyrdom) (New York: Jewish section, Workers’ [Communist] Party, 1927), 72 pp.; Amerike, der industryeler krizis un di revolutsyonizirung fun arbeter-klas (America, the industrial crisis and the revolutionizing of the working class) (Minsk: Central Publ, USSR, 1930), 39 pp.; Sovetn-farband boyt sotsyalizm, vi azoy der finf-yor plan ruft zikh op af ale gebitn fun lebn (The Soviet Union is building socialism, how the five-year plan responds to all realms of life) (New York: International Labor Order, 1931), 128 pp.; Yisroel faynberg, kemfer far frayhayt un sotsyaler gerekhtikheyt (Israel Feinberg, fighter for freedom and social justice), with a preface by David Dubinsky (New York, 1948), 122 pp. (28 pp. in Italian, 93 pp. in English); Jewish Labor In U.S.A.: An Industrial, Political and Cultural History of the Jewish Labor Movement, 1882-1914 (New York, 1950), 456 pp.; Jewish Labor in U.S.A., 1914-1952: An Industrial Political and Cultural History of the Jewish Labor Movement (New York, 1953), 466 pp.; The Jew and Communism: The Story of Early Communist Victories and Ultimate Defeats in the Jewish Community, U.S.A., 1919-1941 (New York, 1959), 438 pp.; Profiles of Eleven (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1966), 379 pp.  He died in Miami Beach.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; A. Vohliner, in Tsyat (New York) (December 4, 1921); A. Lyesin, in Tsukunft (New York) (October 1928); N. Bukhvald, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (April 10, 1931); D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), in Tog (New York) (July 16, 1932); A. Glants, in Tog (November 27, 1932); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (March 4, 1960); Glatshteyn, Mit mayne fartog-bikher (With my daybreak books) (Tel Aviv, 1963), pp. 387-92; Glatshteyn, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (new York) (May 9, 1965); Kh. Liberman, in Forverts (New York) (June 29, 1960); Dr. Elye (Elias) Shulman, in Unzer tsayt (New York) (May 1966); Yankev Raykh, in Forverts (April 17, 1966; April 24, 1966).
Leyb Vaserman

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