Skip To Content
Fast Forward

Aaron Feuerstein, ‘Mensch of Malden Mills’ who paid his workers even after his factory burned down, dies at 95

(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

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 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.

The post Aaron Feuerstein, ‘Mensch of Malden Mills’ who paid his workers even after his factory burned down, dies at 95 appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.


Most Popular

In Case You Missed It

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.