Aaron Feuerstein, the ‘Mensch of Malden Mills, dies at 95

Aaron Feuerstein, who became known as the “Mensch of Malden Mills” for continuing to pay his workers even after the textile factory he owned caught fire, died at the age of 95 on Thursday.
The devoted 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,” said Feuerstein’s son, Daniel Feuerstein, told Boston 25 News. “He lived a long, vibrant and exciting life. His community was everything to him; of its Jewish community in Brookline, and equally important was the manufacturing community in 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 red brick factory complex caught fire, causing one of the largest fires in Massachusetts history. Work for the factory’s 1,400 employees was stopped, but Feuerstein continued to pay them.

The Massachusetts state flag in front of the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Feuerstein also bucked the trend that caused industrial manufacturing to abandon the area when rebuilding the family factory.

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

Feuerstein’s grandfather, Henry Feuerstein, a Jewish immigrant from Hungary, founded Malden Mills in 1906, and his grandson Aaron took over in 1956. The company survived the 1995 fire, was renamed Polartec, and remained in family hands until 2007. But by then the business had experienced a recession and Feuerstein bankrupted it.

Then a private equity company bought the factory, closed, and moved the brand’s manufacturing to Tennessee. In 2019, the industrial manufacturing company Milliken acquired Polartec.

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

“He is not allowed to oppress the worker, because he is poor and needy, among his brothers and among the non-Jews in his community,” he said on “60 Minutes” during an episode titled “The Mensch of Malden Hills“Which aired in 2003.

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


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