The Junk Peddler

Moses Rags

Yes, Skaneateles had a junk peddler. If you had scrap metal, newspapers, rags, any kind of junk at all, he would come to you and cart it away.

Moses “Movsha” Shure was born in Lithuania in 1873, when the country was a part of Tsarist Russia. He was conscripted into the army in 1896, one of more than 15,000 Jews to enter the Russian army that year. Life in the army was not easy for a Jew. As the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1903 observed:

“…service in the Russian Army entails more hardships upon the Jews than upon non-Jews, for the following reasons: (a) In military service the Jews are often prevented from observing the laws of their religion, as, for instance, concerning kosher food; (b) the relation between Jewish and Christian soldiers is not very pleasant, and the treatment of Jews in the Army is most unsatisfactory; (c) the military service does not give any privileges to the Jewish soldier, who is compelled to leave the place of service for the pale of Jewish settlement immediately upon the completion of his term of service.”

In 1906, Moses Shure and his wife Anna made their way beyond the pale to America, where Marcus engaged in the humble trade of junk peddler, a time-honored forerunner of recycling. His native language was Hebrew; he spoke Russian as well; English must have been a challenge at first.

Shure had family and a Jewish community in Syracuse, but early on he gave Skaneateles a try, renting a house on West Elizabeth Street. I am guessing that, at the time, the entire Jewish community of the village consisted of the Shure and Brounstein families. Marcus Brounstein, also an émigré from Russia, had a clothing store here for more than 50 years.

In the winter of 1911, Shure put his horse up for sale, a 9-year-old mare, “kind and true.” She could be seen at Marcus Brounstein’s barn on Jordan Street. I believe this is when Shure’s time in the village came to an end.

Moses Shure spent the rest of his life in Syracuse, where he had a junkyard. He never became an American citizen, remaining a Russian national, noting on one form, “got 1st paper, rejected by Court on 2nd.”  He died in 1945 and his mortal remains were buried in the Chevra Shas section of the Jamesville Gate Cemetery.


Moses Headstone

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Note: The “Pale of Settlement” was a region of Imperial Russia where residency by Jews was allowed and beyond which Jewish residency was mostly forbidden. The English term “pale” is derived from the Latin word palus, a stake, extended to mean an area enclosed by a fence or boundary. The Russian Pale of Settlement included all of Belarus, Lithuania and Moldova, much of Ukraine, parts of eastern Latvia, eastern Poland, and some parts of western Russia.

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