‘Mensch of Malden Mills,’ who paid workers even after factory burned, dies at 95 – The Times of Israel

JTA — Aaron Feuerstein, who became known as the “Mensch of Malden Mills” for continuing to pay his workers even after the textile factory he owned burned to the ground, died at 95 on Thursday.

The devout Orthodox businessman died at his home in Brookline, Massachusetts, after being injured in a fall several days earlier, The Boston Globe reported.

“He did not suffer,” Feuerstein’s son, Daniel Feuerstein, told Boston 25 News. “He lived a long, vibrant and exciting life. His community was everything to him; from his Jewish community in Brookline, and equally important was the manufacturing community in the Merrimack Valley [of Massachusetts].”

Malden Mills was a textile manufacturer in Lawrence, Massachusetts, best known for its line of synthetic fleece products called Polartec.

In December 1995, the company’s redbrick factory complex caught on fire, causing one of the largest blazes in Massachusetts history. Work for the factory’s 1,400 employees stopped but Feuerstein kept paying them.

Feuerstein also bucked the trend that saw industrial manufacturing leave the area by rebuilding the family-run factory.

At the time, the Globe quoted Feuerstein as saying, “I’m not throwing 3,000 people out of work two weeks before Christmas.” Feuerstein also explained after the fire that he was guided by Jewish tradition. “When all is moral chaos, this is the time for you to be a mensch,” he said.

Aaron Feuerstein, left, shakes hands with workers on January 11, 1996, in Lawrence, Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

Feuerstein’s grandfather, Henry Feuerstein, a Jewish immigrant from Hungary, founded Malden Mills in 1906, with grandson Aaron taking over in 1956. The company survived the fire of 1995, rebranded as Polartec, and stayed in the family’s hands until 2007. But by then the business had seen a downturn and Feuerstein took it into bankruptcy.

A private equity firm then bought the factory, shut it down and moved the brand’s manufacturing to Tennessee. In 2019, industrial manufacturing company Milliken acquired Polartec.

A graduate of Yeshiva University, Feuerstein belonged to the Brookline congregation of Young Israel. Jewish teachings informed how he treated his workers.

“You are not permitted to oppress the working man, because he’s poor and he’s needy, amongst your brethren and amongst the non-Jew in your community,” he said on “60 Minutes” during an episode titled “The Mensch of Malden Hills” that aired in 2003.

Feuerstein’s wife Louise died in 2013. They are survived by their sons Daniel and Raphael and their daughter Joyce.

What’s Hebrew for ‘fierce’?

In Streetwise Hebrew for the Times of Israel Community, each month we learn several colloquial Hebrew phrases around a common theme. These are bite-size audio Hebrew classes that we think you’ll really enjoy.

This month, we’re learning phrases on the topic of strength and power. Ready to get tough with us? 

Learn more

Learn more

Already a member? Sign in to stop seeing this

You’re serious. We appreciate that!

That’s why we come to work every day – to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.

So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.

For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.

Join Our Community

Join Our Community

Already a member? Sign in to stop seeing this

source: ‘Mensch of Malden Mills,’ who paid workers even after factory burned, dies at 95 – The Times of Israel

Must read×