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June 03, 1966 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1966-06-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Shymon Shmelke: Professional Philanthropi st r _EFr.L.7,01J- u r ntE ivs,H9 4,Evvs

By JOSEF FRAENKEL
Jewish News
London Correspondent
Editor's Note: Our correspon-
dent's British monetary terms
are retained in this article.

* * *

Lean and pinched, shabbily-at-
tired, but the possessor of a small,
pointed beard, Shymon Shmelke
sauntered along Oxford Street one
Saturday morning. He walked aim-
lessly, deep in thought, until sud-
denly he found himself before a
synagogue in one of the sidestreets.
He had not been inside one for 20
years. He was not in . the least
concerned with Jewish affairs;
never attended Jewish meetings;
never read a jewish paper; not
even Israel aroused his interest. .
But, all of a sudden, he remem-
bered that this very Saturday was
his father, Reb Gedalya's yahrzeit.
His father had attended synagogue
regularly, and used to make an of-
fering of a few hundred kopeks, or
pennies, every year. Like the poor
do, Shymon Shmelke never counted
in roubles or pounds, but in kopeks
or pennies. He decided to recite
the Kaddish, and entered the syna-
gogue.
The reading of the Torah had
just begun; the Shammas approach-
ed him with a Tanis and asked him
for his Hebrew name: Shymon ben
Gedalya. Then, he heard his name,
and was called to the Torah. As
the reading of the Torah went on,
he considered carefully how much
he should give as his offering: a
shilling for each year? Well, he had
not been in a synogogue for 20
years, so that made 20 shillings —
or 960 farthings. This sounded
much more impressive, and he lean-
ed over to whisper to the Chazan:
"960." The Chazan's face became
suffused With agitation. Such an
enormous sum had never yet been
given as an offering in his synago-
gue, and in a dramatic voice he an-
nounced the figure of 960. A
sudden hushfell upon the congre-

gation; even the chattering of the
women stopped.

Who is Shymon ben Gedalya —
they asked? Rothschield's son-in-
law? A relative of Baron de Hirsch?
Perhaps even richer? Shymon
Shmelke's name was soon passed
on from the synagogue to various
organizations and charity commit-
tees.
The next day, in Sabbath suit
and top-hat, the Shammas went by
taxi to collect the offering. Such
a sum would certainly enhance the
prestige of the synagogue, and he
also wanted to invite Shmelke to
sit on the Synagogue Board.
Shmelke was taken aback to see
him. He had hardly expected any-
one to claim the offering so soon.
Reluctantly, he handed over the
20 shillings or 960 farthings; the
Shammas extended his hand for
the further £959, ($2,713), but
Shmelke explained that it was
farthings not pounds he had meant.
The Shammas almost collapsed. It
was not just the sum of money,
but the good name of the synago-
gue that was at stake. What would
become of his synagogue if every-
one were to give their offerings in
farthings? In the end, they reached
an agreement not to divulge the
secret that he had paid in farth-
ings.
The taxi, -awaiting the Shammas
below, took him home again, and
cost him more than he had received
from Shmelke. Shortly afterwards,
he had a phone call from Mendel
Macher, president of the "Vaye-
lech" association, to enquire wheth-
er Shmelke had really given a
£960 offering. He also wanted
Shmelke's address. The telephone
never stopped ringing. Telegrams
I even arrived from the provinces
demanding his address. Thus, it
came about that Shymon Shmelke's
name was added to this list of
persons to whom invitations to
meetings were usually sent.
In the same week, Shmelke was
invited to a .tea-party given by the
"Ma'asim Tovim" society. A mem-

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ber of the synagogue recognized
him, and soon the word passed
around: Shymon Shmelke, the
philanthropist is here! Everyone
wanted to make his acquaintance,
and tea and cakes were lavished
upon him. Invitations began to ar-
rive for Shmelke almost every day,
he never refused them.
With the years, Shmelke became
an expert. He only accepted invita-
tions to lunches, teas or dinners,
when they took place in first-class
hotels. By now, his name was in-
cluded in the "confidential list of
philanthropists" as he moved ever
higher in the best circles; he no
longer sat at the table by the
door but wa seated at the op
table, progressing ever nearer the
center.
Shymon Shmelke became a cele-
brity — an authority. Upon arriv-
ing at a reception he walked with
slow, dignified steps to the top
table, while all heads turned in his
direction, and guests whispered to
one another: "Shmelke,. the phil-
anthropist, is here . . the recep-
tion can begin, Shmelke is here."
True. his name was never an-
nounced among the donors, but
it was understood that Shmelke
wished for the "utmost discretion."
When a sum by someone anony-
mous was donated, the "unassum-
ing" philanthropist, Shmelke, im-
mediately sprang to mind. His
name always appeared in the re-
ports of these receptions in the
Jewish papers. Writers sent him
copies of their books, for which, na-
turally, he never paid, but then he
never read them. Artists sent him
their paintings, and a poet dedicat-
ed one of his works to him. Books,
pictures, poems, of what use were
they to him?? But a hospital bed
in his name and a room in an old-
age home named after him, brought
Shmelke real satisfaction. One can
never tell. Should be become old
and ill, he had, at least a "re-
served" bed and room.
Shmelke was very well-liked. The
millionaire, Chaskel Klapper, in-
vited him to sail his yacht; and
he spent a month at Menahem
Greger's villa in the South of
France. He was no longer emaci-
ated; in fact, he had become rather
portly and respectable-looking. He
was called to important meetings
where urgent matters had to be
discussed. Shymon Shmelke had
come to be considered as a leader
and representative of the Jews.
Not that he ever took part in the
discussions, for he did not know
what he ought to say; but at the
end of the meeting, he would read
alound a statement for the press
which had been prepared for him.
When he reached 70, the various
groups organized a ball in his
honour. He was presented with
gifts, and laudatory speeches were
made. Shmelke responded by
thanking everyone, and added: "I
was never a Zionist." One Jewish
paper devoted its leading article
to him.
No sooner, did the "Old Man"
in Israel read that Shmelke had
never been a Zionist, than he sent
him an invitation to be his guest
in Israel. He came to the airport
to greet him, embraced him, and
permitted himself to be photogra-
phed -together with Shmelke for
the press. The "Old Man" and
Shmelke had a long talk. What
they talked about is not known,
but the next day the "Old Man"
delivered a speech attacking the
Zionist Organization. "Who needs
Zionism when we have Shmelkes?"
cried the "Old Man," and a
Shmelke colony was established.
When Shmelke returned to Lon-
don, a banquet was given for him.
But he fell ill. Ever since he had
become a philanthropist, he suf-
fered with indigestion. He was tak-
en to hospital where he died a few
days later in the bed which bore
his name.
On that Sunday there were two
burials: first, that of a writer
whose novels and plays are men-
tioned in literature. There were
hardly ten persons present. But,
at the funeral of Shymon Shmelke,
hundreds attended. Every organiza-
tion, s;,nagogue and society, was

represented; his virtues were ex-
tolled by everyone; the papers pub-
lished lengthy obituary notices,
and the "Old Man" cabled a mes-
sage to the effect that London was
now bereft of its leader.
The Shammas too, was at the
funeral. He had kept the secret.
Turning to his wife, he said: "It
is not so hard to be a philanthropist
when one is rich, but it is no mean
achievement to become a profes-
sional philanthropist without
spending any money."
And thanks to the Shammas. Shy-
mon Shmelke became a "profes-
sional philanthropist."

4 Israeli Policemen
Sentenced for Beating

(Direct JTA Teletype Wire
to The Jewish News)

TEL AVIV—Four Tel Aviv po-
licemen were found guilty by a
disciplinary police court here Tues-
day of beating up a 17 year old
boy. Yosef Herzberg. in a case

-

-

that had attracted widespread at-
tention throughout the country.
They were given jail senten'
ranging from seven to 14 days z.
fined. A fifth policeman was :a.;
quitted of a similar charge.
The police tribunal also recom-
mended that one of the four, who
is a sergeant, be demoted to the

State Dept. Reports on Dea l rank of constable.
With Rheinmetall, Interest
in Slave Labor Claims
*44 "DEXTER 4-**

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The
State Department revealed that
prior to signing a "framework
-agreement" with the German Min-
istry of Defense for purchase of
Rheinmetall guns, "the depart-
ments of State and Defense had,
on appropriate occasions, made
known their interest in an equita-
ble settlement on the question of
World War II slave labor claims
against Rheinmetall by the Con-
ference on Jewish - Material
Claims Against Germany."
Assistant Secretary of State
Douglas MacArthur II said "We
have been informed by Jacob
Blaustein, senior vice president of I
the conference, that this matter
has been resolved." The State De-
partment expression was made • .1
a communication to members of
Congress.

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