RISKIND, MICHAEL (1879–1969). Michael (Mike, Miguel) Riskind, merchant, son of Nathan and Judith Riskind, was born in Russia in 1879. In 1888 the family moved to the United States. Because of a lack of funds Michael was left behind and at the age of twelve was apprenticed to a tailor. At age sixteen he received money for passage and joined his family in Chicago. After working in a clothing factory as a tailor, then as foreman, he quit to open his own small business and was soon a prosperous merchant. In 1905 he married Rachel Edelstein, from a prominent Lithuanian Jewish family. In the Panic of 1907 he was ruined. With a pregnant wife, small child, and poor health, he was advised by his doctor to move to a hot, dry climate. In 1910 he moved to Eagle Pass, Texas, since his wife's brother Abe Edelstein was in business there. Eagle Pass was a small, isolated trading post less than a generation removed from the old western frontier. Riskind arrived with twenty-seven dollars in cash and a small stock of odds and ends. He had no knowledge of Spanish, but by peddling on foot with a suitcase of merchandise was able to open a small store on Commercial Street near the International Bridge in 1910.
By this time the Mexican Revolution had broken out, and refugees by the thousands poured over the bridge into Eagle Pass. There was a great demand for blankets, clothing, and shoes. By going to Chicago and later to New York, he was able to obtain quality merchandise quickly at good prices. In 1914 he moved to his own building on Main Street, now the core of the Riskind's Department Store. With the aid of his sister Rose, manager of the ladies' department, and later of his brother Albert, who became credit manager, he built a business that by 1920 was the outstanding store in Eagle Pass and one of the most important on the border. It was one of the first stores on the border to adopt a fixed-price policy as well as a guarantee on the quality of merchandise sold. The store attracted customers from a wide area, ranging from working people to some of the most important politicians, generals, landowners, and business and professional people of Mexico. Riskind also owned M. Riskind Furniture Company, Incorporated, which he established in Eagle Pass in 1920. He was generous to charities of all sorts on both sides of the border as well as civic projects in Eagle Pass. He was a strong supporter of Israel. For many years Michael and Rachel Riskind passed their summers in Jerusalem. They were the acknowledged leaders of the Jewish community in the area of Eagle Pass. For many years Jewish religious services and social gatherings were held in their home, attended by Jews from Eagle Pass, Piedras Negras, Del Rio, and surrounding communities. The Riskinds had five children. Michael Riskind died in Eagle Pass in 1969.
Ellis A. Davis and Edwin H. Grobe, comps., The New Encyclopedia of Texas (4 vols., 1929?). Ruthe Winegarten and Cathy Schechter, Deep in the Heart: The Lives and Legends of Texas Jews (Austin: Eakin Press, 1990).