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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Norbert packing, Herman loading, Opa’s truck.

Helping DPs—1949/1950.

I found out that a company in California was having these mixers manufactured in Hong Kong and was marketing them through very limited outlets in the US. I contacted them and offered to become their marketing arm for all major chain stores. Although they did not know me, and I do not know whether they ever investigated me, they accepted my proposal with a percentage commission for me on all my sales. All expenses would be borne by them, so that it was risk-free for me. Even rejects and returns would be their responsibility. They sent me a two-page agreement, whose terms were even broader than those I had outlined for them, excluding only those stores that were already their customers. This gave me a market covering all major chains except Walmart.

I did most of my selling by cold-calling the purchasing agents for grocery and drug chains and sending them free samples. Eventually, I also added on pill boxes that were imported by the same people; but the little mixers continued to be my main commodity.

When after a few years the diet supplement manufacturers switched to manufacturing the liquid supplement themselves, replacing the powdered form, the mixer market died out. In the meantime, the company had started importing, and I had begun to distribute a small scale that could be used to weigh food portions or other lightweight items, such as mail. Over the years we moved tens of thousands of these items, but eventually that market also dried up and I was able to sell my list of customers back to the importer.

All my life I had been involved with volunteer work in one form or another. It started as far back as 1947, after I was discharged from the Army.

Some of my friends in Washington Heights who were a few years older and had therefore been discharged from the service earlier, as well as several young ladies, had formed an organization and named it “Overseas Relief for Displaced Persons.” I joined the committee and later became its chairman.

We raised funds by various means, including sending out appeal letters; solicited donations of food, clothing, shoes and religious articles; had everything cleaned and repaired; and shipped to refugees in European DP camps. These displaced persons had been rescued from concentration camps but lived in refugee camps while looking for loved ones, for a way to make a living or to find a place to go. Most had no income.

We made individual packages for families whose names had been given to us by social workers in the camps. We packed in an empty room in the apartment of Harry and Marguerite Levi (their granddaughter, Meira would, many years later, marry our oldest grandson, Ari), and used Opa’s truck to take the packages to the post office. I remember one unusual mail appeal. We sent out dollar bills asking the recipients to return the dollar together with their own bill. We had a 90 percent success rate.

In the 1940s and 1950s, we all belonged to an Orthodox social group, Agudath Israel, that among other activities, had youth group meetings on Saturday afternoons in a building they owned in Washington Heights. Every group had an older leader who was given material on some Jewish topic to discuss with the group. For a number of years, I was one of the group leaders. I eventually outgrew that activity.

Opa had always been involved with an organization that had been founded by a number of Orthodox Jewish congregations in Washington Heights. The organization, called Gemiluth Chesed of Greater New York, supported people with temporary financial difficulties. Some years later, they raised a large sum of money and built a residential facility for senior citizens in Palisades, New York.

Opa was involved with that organization, and eventually both Opa and Oma became residents there. Opa had asked me to join the board of directors, which I did. I only remained on that board for a short while until I realized that all decisions had already been made before the board meetings, and the board was just a rubber stamp to make those decisions official. I was not comfortable with that arrangement and therefore resigned.

In the late 1950s, I was asked to join the board of directors of the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem Inc. This was a New York charitable corporation functioning as the fundraising arm of the hospital by that name in Jerusalem. The hospital had been established in Jerusalem in the late 19th century when the area was still under Turkish administration.

It was at first a clinic helping the poor people of the city, receiving financial support from the Jewish communities in Amsterdam, Holland, and Frankfurt, Germany, but later established itself as a hospital with a large building in the heart of the city. Years later, the hospital moved to the outskirts of the city after building a large medical center under the direction of the medical director, Prof. David Meir, a dear and close friend until his untimely death in an automobile accident.

Then and now, that hospital was and still remains the second largest medical center in Jerusalem and a lot of the credit for it goes to Prof. Meir.

(To be continued next week)

By Norbert Strauss

�Norbert Strauss is a Teaneck resident and Englewood Hospital volunteer. He was general traffic manager and group VP at Philipp Brothers Inc., retiring in 1985. He frequently speaks to groups to relay his family’s escape from Nazi Germany in 1941.

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