The founder of Insty-Prints rose from humble origins to become one of the local Jewish community’s remarkable philanthropists
By MORDECAI SPECKTOR
In his eulogy for Frank Schochet at the United Hebrew Brotherhood Cemetery Chapel, Rabbi Avraham Ettedgui recalled that Schochet “loved to tell the story of how after graduation from the [Minneapolis Talmud Torah] elementary department, Dr. George Gordon congratulated him and told him, ‘Ephraim, you have graduated, you don’t have to come to the Talmud Torah anymore.’ Frank felt slighted and said, ‘But I am planning to continue in the high school department.’”
Gordon, the school’s founder and director, told Schochet that he was a “disrupting element” in the school; he should make other plans.
“Poor Dr. Gordon,” Ettedgui added. “Had he only known that Frank would become a fluent Hebrew speaker, and one who studied Torah regularly. Had Dr. Gordon only known that Frank would join the board, and become the longest-serving member on the board of directors of the Talmud Torah. Had Dr. Gordon only known that Frank and [his wife] Freda would create the Frank and Freda Schochet Jewish Studies Fund that over the years would help hundreds of Jewish teachers in our community, from the Talmud Torah and the day school, continue their education and participate in seminars and conferences, here and abroad.”
Frank Ephraim Schochet, a successful business entrepreneur, dedicated philanthropist, promoter of Yiddishkeit, master woodworker and mensch, died March 26. He was 96.
One of four children born to Herman and Rebecca Schochet, at the age of 12, Schochet pitched in to provide for his family following the death of his father. As Rabbi Ettedgui mentioned, Schochet printed Jewish holiday greeting cards — which were especially popular for Rosh Hashana — on a manual letterpress, and recruited his classmates on the North Side of Minneapolis as salespersons.
That early business presaged Schochet’s successful career in printing. As the creator and franchiser of Insty-Prints, in 1965, Schochet was a trailblazer in the quick printing industry. According to a comment Schochet himself left on a Web site posting about antique letterpress equipment, Insty-Prints grew to a chain of 268 franchised shops when he sold the business in 1983.
Carl Gerhardt, president and CEO of Allegra Network, which bought Insty-Prints in 2002, called Schochet one of the “true pioneers of the industry; he leaves a great legacy not only to our industry but also to his family and everyone he touched during his life.”
Following the sale of his business, Schochet pursued Jewish learning and took a methodical approach to philanthropy. He and Freda, who died in 2003, gave generously to numerous Jewish institutions in the community.
“He wanted Jews of all persuasions to respect each other and get along,” said his daughter, Barbara Schochet, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles.
She mentioned that her parents also supported secular charities, including a franchise education program at the University of St. Thomas, and Dunwoody Institute, where her father received training as a printer.
The Schochets instilled the value of learning in their children, who are all educated and accomplished.
The Schochets’ son, Claude Schochet, a professor of mathematics at Wayne State University in Detroit, has compiled and updated a Schochet family genealogy. He credits his father’s “phenomenal memory” for many of the colorful details in the monograph. Claude’s entry for his father notes that “he was always involved in Jewish communal affairs and always reading — typically biblical archaeology, history of printing or Jewish books.”
Claude also mentioned that his father had an “elaborate woodworking shop at home, where he built French Provincial furniture.”
In this regard, my first memory of Frank Schochet was his appearance at some communal event, where he presented a handmade wooden case for a Megilla scroll (Book of Esther). I remember this because I was struck by the beauty and functionality of the scroll holder. When I visited his neatly kept apartment at Knollwood Place, Schochet would proudly point out the lovely furniture that he fashioned with his own hands.
In the genealogy entry for his father, Claude notes his parents lived four months of the year in Jerusalem, and much of their time was spent helping out at Yad LaKashish (Lifeline for the Elderly), a nonprofit organization that provides meaningful work for older Jerusalemites in the production of beautiful craft items. The Schochets donated a woodworking shop to the group, and Frank Schochet was hands-on, buying the equipment and setting it up. He also built cabinets and shelves for the gift shop.
In 2007, hearing that I would be traveling to Israel, Frank asked a favor of me. I went to his apartment at Knollwood, and he took me downstairs to the parking garage. In the trunk of his car were several packages of circular saw blades, which he had me deliver to the woodshop at Yad LaKashish. The package was not light; but the elderly workers in Jerusalem were happy to get the hard-to-find blades.
“Frank used to visit Yad LaKashish twice a year together with his dear wife Freda, and would invariably spend these visits ensconced in the carpentry workshop, because he was never happier than when busy working,” recalled Nava Ein-Mor, the organization’s executive director.
She added, “In recent years when Frank became too frail to make the journey to Jerusalem, he made sure to keep abreast of all our latest news via e-mail, and so we felt that we remained close to him despite the distance. In addition to all his hands-on contributions, Frank was also a dedicated donor to Yad LaKashish, and a member of the board of Friends of Yad LaKashish-Lifeline for the Old.”
Another Schochet daughter, Patricia Schochet Tal, who made aliya, recalled her father’s devotion to the Jewish state. She was studying at Hebrew University when the Six-Day War began. She recalled that her American classmates were getting “frantic telegrams and messages from their parents to come home. But my parents sent no such messages. My father and mother… sent me an aerogram saying that they ‘wouldn’t have taught me to be a Zionist only to see me leave the country at the first sign of trouble.’ And my dad added that if the IDF needed a bugler, he had been one in the National Guard. The P.S. in the letter was, ‘And keep your head down when they start shooting.’”
Patricia added, “I kept my head down, survived that war and many others since; and the spunk and emuna [faith] of my parents, who surely did worry about me, has been a source of strength to me for many years.”
In a touching remembrance of her “zayde” at the funeral service, Shana Schochet Lowell, who lives with her family in Hillside, N.J., recalled Frank Schochet’s “constant charity work. Dedication to education. He was determined to help others help themselves, and this was reflected in the way he worked and in the way he gave to others. His sense of humor and endless creativity and innovation. And although he wasn’t an overly observant man, his ethics and beliefs guided his every move. His idol was Rabbi Akiva. That was who he was and the man we all knew.”
Shana mentioned that she called her grandfather last month, on his 96th birthday, “and after we sang to him, I told him that I had six of his 15 grandkids in my kitchen, and was teaching them to make Baubie’s hamantashen. Almost none of them remember their Baubie. That makes me so very sad, since she was an incredible woman. But every single one of them knew about their ‘great’-Zayde, and that is a gift I will always be grateful for — because in knowing him they will also know themselves.”
At the beginning of his eulogy, Rabbi Ettedgui said that “at the passing of a tzadik, a righteous person, the Gemara states, ‘What a pity, what a loss, to the community, to our generation.’”
The American Jewish World extends its condolences to the family of Frank E. Schochet. May the Omnipresent comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
(American Jewish World, 4.15.11)