Judæo-German term of reproach for a Jewish beggar having some pretensions to respectability. In contrast to the ordinary house-to-house beggar, whose business is known and easily recognized, the schnorrer assumes a gentlemanly appearance, disguises his purpose, gives evasive reasons for asking assistance, and is not satisfied with small favors, being indeed quite indignant when such are offered. He usually travels from city to city and even into foreign countries; but he must not be confounded with the tramp, whose counterpart is not to be found in Jewish beggary. The schnorrer class includes the Jew who collects a fund to provide a dowry for his daughter or for an orphan relative about to be married, which fund is called "haknasat, kallah"; also the one who asks for means to rehabilitate himself after his house or chattels have been burned in a general conflagration, in which case he is known as a "nisraf." The author who considers that the world owes him a living for his "great work" for "enlightening mankind" and who presses the acceptance of his book on the unappreciative rich in consideration of whatever sums they may be willing to contribute, is characterized as a literary schnorrer.
The schnorrer period began with the Chmielnicki massacres in Poland (1648-57), when thousands of Jews fled to Germany. In the eighteenth century schnorrers flourished principally in Germany, Holland, and Italy, and came from Poland (mainly from Lithuania), and also from Palestine, one from the latter country being known as a "Yerushalmi." In later times impudence and presumption were characteristics of the schnorrer. This was more especially the case with those who laid claim to a rabbinical education and who regarded themselves as privileged persons, giving the impression, with an assumption of condescension, that they were doing a favor in rendering an opportunity to their rich neighbors to perform a worthy deed by making a contribution. This trait has been graphically delineated in Zangwill's "The King of Schnorrers." The equivalent Hebrew term of the Maḥzor, "melek ebyon," has been adopted in the Yiddish vernacular to denote a person of extreme poverty and shabby gentility. See Begging and Beggars.
- Jacobs, Jewish Year Book, 5659 (1899), p. 294;
- A. A. Green, in Jew. Chron. 1900.