David Edelstadt was a Jewish-Russian-American anarchist poet in the Yiddish language.
David Edelstadt was born on 9 May 1866 in Russia. He was deeply affected by the life of his father, who was required by force to serve in the Tsar’s
army for 25 years. This type of conscription in the Russian army was
typical of the Imperial regime, and was often used against Jews (see Cantonist). David was educated in Russian language and literature; he published his first poem in Russian at the age of 12.
In 1882 at the age of 15, David emigrated to the United States after escaping the Kiev pogrom of May 8, 1881. He settled in New York City,
where he became involved in the developing anarchist movement. He
participated in the first Jewish anarchist group in New York, The
Pioneers of Liberty (Pionire der Frayhayt). The group was created after the arrest of the (later to be) Chicago Haymarket martyrs,
then a group of anarchist labor organizers working for the 8-hour day.
The first dozen workers who initially set the group were later joined by
Edelstadt and other gifted writers and speakers – Saul Yanovsky, Roman Lewis, Hillel Solotaroff, Moshe Katz, and JA Maryson.
Edelstadt and the others held meetings, sponsored rallies and raised
funds to help the Chicago anarchists. The Pioneers organised a ball on
the Lower East Side which raised $100, which was then sent to the
families of the defendants. They began to spread anarchist propaganda
among the Jewish immigrants, who were arriving in the States in
increasing numbers. They set up a club on brought out literature in
Yiddish, including a pamphlet on the Haymarket case.
The intense propaganda led to the establishment of anarchist circles in other towns – Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and Providence. Edelstadt and others travelled to Philadelphia to deliver talks. The group kept in touch with the Jewish anarchists in London, and Edelstadt contributed to the London Yiddish anarchist paper Arbeiter Fraynd (Workers’ Friend).
David was the third chief editor of the Freie Arbeiter Stimme
(Free Voice of Labor). He set up various columns and features, which
contributed to its popular success. He produced a series of tribute
poems to the executed Chicago anarchists.
A buttonhole-maker by trade, the bad conditions in the sweatshops and the tenements led to his contracting tuberculosis
and he was forced to quit his post in October 1891. He moved to Denver
for a cure. Although he continued to send poems to the paper, the end
was near. He died there on 17 October 1892 at the age of 26. In the next
few years, Edelstadt cultural groups sprang up in Chicago, Boston and
David Edelstadt is buried in Golden Hill Cemetery near W. Colfax Avenue in Golden, Colorado.
In Argentina many years later, Jewish anarchists named their cultural circle in Buenos Aires after him.
The Freie Arbeiter Stimme
said of him: "David Edelstadt, a fine idealistic nature, a spiritual
petrel whose songs of revolt were beloved by every Yiddish-speaking