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AFTERWORD Pushcart Man From Russia to West Side San Antonio BY FRED SCHMIDT ASHORT, STOCKY, severe-looking man used to push a pushcart around San Antonio’s West Side, selling little rugs, pots and pans, things like that. His name was David Rapoport. He had been a socialist in tsarist Russia when that was not a popular thing to be, especially for a Jew after the unsuccessful 1905 revolution. Somehow he escaped his banishment to Siberia and made his way to Brussels. There his fellow socialists gave him a letter addressed “To Our Comrades in San Antonio,” asking that they accept him and assist him in starting a new life. Until the late 1930s there were such comrades in San Antonio. When I got to knowing Mr. Rapoport he had put the cart aside and was selling insurance. That wasn’t as big an occupational leap as it sounds, for it involved going house-to-house collecting two bits down and two-bits forever, mainly for burial insurance. I always called him Mr. Rapoport, for I was in awe of him. He wasn’t just a literate man, he was a learned man and a revolutionist. His sparse house was stuffed with books. I got to knowing him at Thomas Jefferson High School in 1933, when his son, Bernard, and I took up with each other. Neither Barney nor I had any spending money and were pretty much out of it when it came to the parties, the dances, the clubs, and other school events. Barney’s idea of a evening of fun was to teach me how to play chess. That chessboard was about the only “toy” he and his younger sister, Idel, were given as kids. There was often an air of tension in the Rapoport’s house, the kind of tension that hung over many households during the hardscrabble years of the Depression when just surviving made one a winner. By then, Fred Schmidt is a retired member of the UCLA faculty who lives in Fredericksburg. This article originally appeared in the San Antonio Express-News. And, yes, Bernard Rapoport is the Observer ‘s major advertiser. David Rapoport had already proven that he was a survivor . He died some years later, not knowing what a big winner he was. IDON’T think he ever particularly liked me, but I can’t fault him for that. I got to being a sponger at his house. Saintly Mrs. Rapoport always set another place when I came by, saying that I needed to eat more hot meals. That’s when I learned about borscht, matzo balls, menorahs, and some of the solemn family rites that cement people together forever. I know he didn’t like me the night Barney and I got to horsing around and wrestling and something busted in Barney’s leg. A doctor came to the house and took a piece of string to measure Barney’s leg and announced, “Yep, one’s shorter than the other.” Mr. Rapoport came all unglued. He slammed me against the wall, while Barney yelled from his bed, “Daddy, don’t hit him, please don’t hit him, he didn’t mean it.” Anyway, that’s why Barney has a gimpy leg to this day. But it doesn’t keep him at age 72 from playing tennis early every morning and then going to work as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of one of the country’s major insurance companies. He sees himself as having to keep that pushcart going. You might surmise from this that he is a wealthy man, and you are probably right. But you would never know it from the way he lives or from any airs he puts on. The fact is that he works as hard at not being a wealthy man as he does at making a buck. He does this by giving away large sums of money to scores of humanitarian, educational, and progressive causes. We are talking many millions of dollars here; most we will never hear about. But we couldn’t help hearing about his endowing two distinguished professors chairs and three professorships in economics and liberal arts at the University of Texas at Austin, the school where he once had to borrow the $25 tuition to attend. Or his support of the United Negro College Fund, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and dozens of other such groups both here and in Israel, for he is a zealous Zionist. However, this is the same Bernard Rapoport who funded an eye clinic for Arabs in Jerusalem and who wrote a letter to the San Antonio Express-News last August, abhorring the Israeli government’s response to the Intifada, the uprising of Palestinians. So far as I know, he is the only Jew in Texas to break the smothering silence on this. And what about “Sister,” Idel, now Mrs. Idel McLanathan? She has retired after serving for many years as head of the psychology department at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. See what I mean when I say David Rapoport never really knew how big a winner he was after bringing a Russian revolution to San Antonio? Shalom! THE TEXAS server TO SUBSCRIBE: Name Address City State Zip n $27 enclosed for a one-year subscription. 1 Bill me for $27. 307 West 7th, AUSTIN, TX 78701 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 47