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January 20: The Tsedoke Collector of Greenwich Village

January 20, 2015
big-collectorLarry Selman, who collected $300,000 in small hand-outs on the streets of Greenwich Village between 1970 and 2013 and distributed the money to St. Vincent’s Hospital, AIDS research groups, animal rescue projects, and many other causes, died at 70 on this date in 2013. Selman, whose IQ was said to be 62, had lived independently on Bedford Street (with the help of an uncle, who died in 2005) since the deaths of his parents in 1968. With his uncle ailing in the 1990s, Selman became suicidal, but averted that fate by intensifying his schedule as a collector and distributor of tsedoke — and by sharing his apartment with homeless men, a practice that his tenants put a stop to while establishing a $30,000 trust fund for Selman to augment his disability income. A film about him, The Collector of Bedford Street, directed by Alice Elliott, received an Academy Award nomination in 2003. In 2009, Selman was the recipient, along with Colin Powell, of The Caring Award for outstanding contributions as a volunteer. To see a captioned preview of the film, look below. “For close to 40 years Selman was a neighborhood fixture, collecting charity for everyone from cancer victims to disabled firefighters. Neighbor Sally Dill said that just prior to his hospitalization... Selman had been collecting donations for a Jewish Association Serving the Aging project that provides pets for seniors. Selman continued to collect for charity after a stroke in 2007 left him in a wheelchair with slurred speech that made it difficult for passersby to understand him. But he was nothing if not persistent when it came to soliciting donations.” —Jon Kalish, The Forward