Schnorrer (שנאָרער; also spelled shnorrer) is a Yiddish term meaning "beggar" or "sponger". The word Schnorrer also occurs in German to describe a person who frequently asks for little things, like cigarettes or little sums of money, without offering a return, and has thus come to mean freeloader. The English usage of the word denotes a sly chiseler who will get money out of another any way he can, often through an air of entitlement. A schnorrer is distinguished from an ordinary beggar by dint of his boundless chutzpah. The term does not apply to begging or being homeless, but rather a habit of getting things (food, tools) rather than money by politely wanting to borrow them.
The term, which is used in a pejorative or ironic sense, can also be used as a backhanded compliment to someone's perseverance, cleverness, or thrift. For instance, Azriel Hildesheimer, known for his travels around Europe to spread his rabbinical wisdom to the poor, and for his refusal to accept payment for his services, was sometimes referred to as the "international schnorrer" for his reliance on the local community to house and feed him wherever he went. Alternatively, Theodor Herzl described his early Eastern European immigrant supporters among the Ostjuden, as his "army of schnorrers". Israel Zangwill later described a schnorrer as a beggar who would chide a donor for not giving enough. The Schnorrer Club of Morrisania was a German-American social club in the Bronx, New York.
Schnorers sometimes begged for the dowries of poor women (Hakhnasat Kallah); a practice which was allowed even when it disrupted the public study of the Torah.
Additionally, the word is the origin of the modern Hebrew verb לשנורר (leshnorer), which can be roughly defined as "getting small things without offering return."
Schnorrers in film and literature
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- Israel Zangwill's 1894 novel The King of Schnorrers
- Bernard Herrmann wrote an unsuccessful musical based on this novel.
- At the end of Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story "Gimpel the Fool," Gimpel says another schnorrer is waiting to take his place.
- Groucho Marx, in his movies, often assumed the role of a schnorrer. The word is used in the song "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" in the Marx Brothers' musical Animal Crackers: "Hooray for Captain Spaulding/The African explorer/'Did someone call me schnorrer?'/Hooray, hooray, hooray!"
- Dr. Zoidberg in Futurama is a Yiddish-accented humanoid lobster schnorrer.
- Mordecai Richler's 1959 novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and its 1974 film adaptation
- The comedian Jackie Mason often pokes fun at the stereotype of Jews as schnorrers.
- The character of Father Phil Intintola on The Sopranos, as played by Paul Schulze, self-deprecatingly refers to himself as a schnorrer, especially in regard to his always showing up when Carmela is cooking.
- TV - Northern Exposure Season 5, Episode "Northern Hospitality" 5-16(79) 1993-94 - Dr Joel Fleishman is perceived as a schnorrer because of his failure to reciprocate dinner invitations.
- TV - In The Simpsons episode "The Cartridge Family," Krusty the Clown shouts "come on, you schnorrers, do something!" at soccer players.
- TV - The Sopranos - Season 1 Episode 5 - Father Intinola questions whether he is a schnorrer after being accused of his hypocritical visits to the Soprano home.
- TV - George Costanza from Seinfeld is a "schnorrer" who will get money any way he can, as long as it doesn't require putting too much effort into it.
- "SCHNORRER". JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
- Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews, p.398-99 "Herzl found himself visited by shabby, excitable Jews from distant parts, to the dismay of his fashionable wife, who grew to detest the very word Zionism. Yet these were the men who became the foot soldiers, indeed the NCOs and officers, in the Zionist legion; Herzl called them his 'army of schnorrers'. The 'army' met publicly for the first time on 29 August 1897..."