The wandering Jew

The 19th century saw the development of a well-oiled German Jewish charitable system that took care of locals and foreigners.

Schnorrers: Wandering Jews in Germany 1850-1914
Photo by: Courtesy
Dr. Roni Aaron Bornstein, a graduate in European history from Tel Aviv University, spent two years at the Free University of Berlin researching the unusual topic of wandering Jews, or Wanderarmen, meaning “the wandering poor,” who moved from one established German community to another in search of income and protection, and who were often entirely dependent on the support of the local Jewish population and Jewish organizations. They depended on charity and good identification papers.

Bornstein’s Schnorrers presents us with a little-known and less-remembered Jewish world of yesterday in which a well-organized charitable foundation played an important role. This is the story of thousands of Jewish beggars, poor migrants – men and women, some with children – who lived in or wandered across Germany, a few of them on their way to a better world, about a century ago.

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