In memory of Eva Wormser and Sidney Schonfeld

In memory of Eva Wormser and Sidney Schonfeld

Shortly before 9/11, I joined a group of boomer jobseekers at Jewish Family Services offices in Teaneck. Their Job Search Network program leader was Marlena Lechner.

I read that Sidney Schonfeld had helped with the seed money to start JSN and later, its computer learning center. If that’s all that Sidney Schonfeld had contributed, most of us would agree it was more than enough.

What touches me is that both Sidney Schonfeld and Eva Wormser, a JFS volunteer, were of an age where they could have enjoyed a leisurely retirement.

Instead, they showed up like clockwork at the JSN weekly meetings. They willingly sat among a group of demoralized, cranky, and frustrated people, each of whom struggled to believe they’d ever work again. Fear and despair were never far from the surface, even among those who told their latest rejection story in a humorous way.

While Marlena Lechner addressed essential practical skills like revamping résumés and interview techniques, it was Schonfeld and Wormser who often made the atmosphere of those meetings. They were from the “never say die” school of perseverance. Like family, they tried to help by matchmaking you with someone they knew who had a business. They whispered in your ear about a company or individual to avoid. Often, they’d offer a story of their own work experiences as an example to inspire. OK, some of their advice may have reflected the working world of their time, rather than now. But what you felt to the core was their genuine concern for our plights. I still have Eva’s e-mails and the scrap of paper Sidney wrote his home address on, so I could mail him a résumé once I’d completed it.

Eva Wormser died on Aug. 3 and Sidney Schonfeld on Sept. 15. The world of jobseekers has lost two of its best cheerleaders. If/when I get to retire and the beach beckons, I will always think of Eva and Sidney: the two retirement-age adults who felt it was essential to be there in person as moral support. How lucky our jobseeking group was to know them both.