MILWAUKEE -- Albert Rosen has been robbed at gunpoint, reduced to tears by critics and teased about his Jewish heritage during the 21 years he has volunteered as a substitute worker for Christians on Christmas.
But neither the negative experiences nor advancing age can stop the 72-year-old retired housewares salesman from continuing the work that has earned him the title "Jewish Elf."
Rosen relishes the idea of gift-giving at Christmas. He proudly recounts some of the thanks he has received.
Those he has helped tell him "you are truly the spirit of Christmas because you are giving of yourself rather than giving something material that doesn't have much value anyway," he said.
Rosen's efforts earned him nationwide recognition in 1977 when NBC aired a Hallmark Christmas special about his work titled "Have I Got a Christmas for You."
But Rosen is quick to dispel thoughts that thanks and recognition are his motives.
"Brotherhood should be practiced as simple as buying a cup of coffee," he said. "It should not require any recognition."
Rosen's volunteerism during past holiday seasons has landed him in such jobs as bartender, television news reporter, gas station attendant, mail clerk, security guard and hotel bellhop.
This year, Rosen mulled retiring as a Christmas elf. He figured his efforts had promoted goodwill and his message had been spread. But then his wife of 51 years, Sylvia, stepped in and changed his mind.
"There's never a time when it's not important to help someone," Sylvia Rosen reminded her husband.