An Egyptian pharaoh sniffs
out Reb Olschwanger's Passover wine in the
old Jewish neighborhood of St. Louis . . .
Anna Olswanger's Shlemiel Crooks is a
limited edition miniature book published by Anna Olswanger Books and hand bound by the late Donald Brady of the Clearview Press. The book has 48 pages, measures 2 1/2
x 2 7/8 inches, and is case bound with imitation leather on
the spine and a gold-embossed title. The edition is 495
and includes two reproductions of Yiddish newspaper articles.
The text of Shlemiel Crooks originally appeared in The
Young Judaean where it won the 1998 Society
of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Magazine
Merit Award for Fiction. Shlemiel Crooks is also available as an illustrated trade book for young readers.
Excerpt from Shlemiel Crooks:
In the middle of the night on a Thursday, two crooks—onions
should grow in their navels—drove their horse and
wagon to the saloon of Reb Elias Olschwanger at the
corner of Fourteenth and Carr Streets in St. Louis.
This didn't happen yesterday. It was 1919.
Reb Elias, you should know, didn't have a
sit-down kind of saloon with men coming in to guzzle
whiskey when they should have been at home helping
to fold the laundry. Oh, no! Reb Elias had
the kind of saloon with housewives, grandmas even,
coming in to buy bottles of wine and brandy, unopened
of course and strictly kosher, for the Jewish Sabbath.
He was the only one in St. Louis selling kosher wines
back then. Listen, he sold kosher cognac too—that's
a kind of brandy—and mead, which is made out of honey and goes down easy. And for the children, he kept
in the back a barrel of pretzels with lots of thick
salt on them.
Meanwhile, the two crooks—potatoes should sprout
in their ears—were stealing crates of Passover wine
shipped special that year to Reb Elias on a
boat from the Land of Israel. Reb Elias paid
a little more—okay, he paid a lot more—for that
wine. Usually he was buying his Passover stock from
the Manischewitz family in Cincinnati, but after
Mr. Balfour—excuse me, Lord Balfour—a big politician
in England, promised to make a home for the Jews
in the Land of Israel, Reb Olschwanger thought maybe
they could use the extra business there. The Jews
swatting mosquitoes shouldn't have only watery soup
and a little goat's milk to drink.
Note for Shlemiel Crooks
February 21, 1919
Anna Olswanger never knew her great-grandparents
Elias and Dora Olschwanger, not even their names,
until 1982. That was the year she made the first
of several trips to St. Louis to research her family
With the help of relatives whom she had never
met, and St. Louis historians, she located a number
of newspaper articles, which mentioned her great-grandfather "Reb" Olschwanger.
One of the articles became the basis for Shlemiel
REB ELIYAHU OLSCHWANGER
Shlimazel crooks, their work
was unsuccessful. Last Thursday at 3:00 a.m. in
the middle of the night, several men drove to the
saloon of Reb Eliyahu Olschwanger at the corner
of 14th and Carr Streets. They opened the saloon
and removed several barrels of brandy and beer.
Mr. Mankel who lives on the second floor, upon
hearing what was going on in the saloon, opened
the window and began shouting for help. Benjamin
Resnik from 1329 Carr Street, hearing the shouting,
shot his revolver from his window. The band of
crooks got scared and left everything, including
their own horse and wagon and ran away. Police
immediately came and took everything to the police
To purchase a copy
of Shlemiel Crooks, send $20.00 (which includes
postage and handling) to:
16-60 Chandler Drive
Fair Lawn, NJ 07410-2715
You can also purchase Shlemiel Crooks online with a secure payment through PayPal.
Other Miniature Books by Anna Olswanger
Chicken Bone Man
Shlemiel Crooks copyright 1989, 1995, 2003 Anna Olswanger