In March of 2007, after nearly 40 years of schnorring at the Kotel plaza, Yonky “Gelt Schmeller” Pakolovich was ready to retire. At 61 he felt it was time to pack in his pushka and spend some quality time with his 18 children and 411 grandchildren. Unfortunately, the financial crisis hit and Yonky’s plans came to a crashing halt.
“My 401K was devastated,” Yonky said, as he violently shook a handful of coins against the ear of a man engaged in the silent devotion before the Western Wall, “my bank stocks tanked, the blue chips all retreated, and the foreign markets I had shifted 25 percent of my portfolio into for aggressive growth suffered massive declines.
“Hey, Tzaddik,” he interrupted as he turned to a young American boy arriving with a camera around his neck, “if you give ME your shliach mitzvah money your plane home won’t crash and burn. Can’t say what might happen if you go with one of the other fellows around here.”
“But, 2009 has been a real bracha,” he continued. “I picked up Goldman Sachs just before the rebound, my high yield corporate bond portfolio had record returns. Even my Russel 2000 small cap fund was up 27%.” Spotting a group of German Tourists, Yonky shuffled up the steps in his dusty black shoes with separating soles.
“Not everyone down here has been so lucky,” he said on his return. “Take Perel over there,” he said, pointing to a man dressed in a white kaputta and matching white beard. “He had money with Madeoff. The Bank took back his condo in Boca. Thirty years of hard core hand to hand schnorring wiped out in an instant. What’s he gonna do now?”
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