Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Schnorrer

He would generally arrive in my office on the hottest day of July. He would plop down on the sofa in my office.

He wore a wool serge suite and a tie that perpetually seemed to have a residual of his breakfast on it. He was very overweight and in his sixties or seventies. A soon as he sat down a large handkerchief would appear to mop his neck and brow.

He had just got off the bus from Great Falls or Spokane or Boise and he had called on so and so and so and so who knew me and sent regards.

He was the Schnorrer.

Now, my association with the word went back to my childhood days when I would eagerly wait for my mother to finish stirring the chocolate cake icing with saucer eyes and she would offer the spoon for me to lick. Saying " O.K. little schnorrer, enjoy."

Actually, before President Franklin D. Roosevelt endorsed the National March of Dimes and made fund raising big business with national telethons and all the trappings schnorring was an honorable profession.

The schnorrer went from community to community seeking out donors and bringing a connection to the isolated Jewish merchants and professional people in the on the Main Streets of small towns.

I think he was one of the last. One year we received a letter from the New York office of a religious secondary school in Israel informing us that Rabbi ______ who had called on us had passed away and we should honor his memory by sending a donation in the enclosed envelope.

I remember him calling on my father and he or his predecessor probably called on my grandfather so as soon as I finished my phone call or the paperwork in front of me I would reach into my desk for a checkbook.

One year instead of reaching for the check book I turned to him and said, "I am sorry. We have had a really lousy year I'd like to skip the donation this year."

He fixed his gaze on me and responded, "So you had a lousy year. How did it feel?"

Well it was depressing and I had to tell the family to cut back on extra expenses.

"So why would you do that to me?"

He left with a generous check


Blogger Mike Barer said...

I believe his name was Rabbi Eugene Friedman.

1:22 PM  

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