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Everything You Need to Know: Jewish Mafia Overview

This past Wednesday evening I attended an education program, sponsored by the Coral Springs-Parkland Chapter of Hadassah. Dr. Richard Levy discussed the American Jewish mafia; what an interesting talk! Here’s an overview for those of you who could not make it:

• In the late 19th century and early 20th century some young men turned to racketeering, extortion, and other types of “organized” crime as a way to break out of the dismal living conditions.

• Some of the first gangs competed with the Italians and were considered equally powerful and dangerous.

• The “Five Point Gang” was known to work both sides of the coin by hiring out to both businesses AND labor unions to strong arm men. The businesses would pay them to keep the unions in check, and the unions would pay them to keep the businesses in check, and neither party was the wiser.

• Arnold Rothstein came from money, unlike the other gangsters. He is said to have organized the crime into a business-like operation, teaching the other gangsters how to have style.

• Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel helped see the Jewish Mob to its height during the prohibition.

• Lucky Luciano, an Italian mobster, held close relationships with Jewish mob leaders like Lansky and Siegel, and when he took over the Italian mafia, they worked together as a syndicate.

• Louis "Lepke" Buchalter and Abe “Kid Twist” Reles led the predominantly Jewish Murder Incorporated as the Luciano-Meyer syndicate's exclusive hitmen.

• Jewish-American organized crime derived from dislocation and poverty. As American Jews improved their conditions, the Jewish thug and racketeer fizzled out. Notable mafia leaders like Lansky and Seigel raised children who would not be involved in crime.

• Abe Reles was implicated by the government and turned on the syndicate. He was placed under police surveillance yet still died when the police were paid off to push him out a window.

Dr. Richard Levy recommends the book Tough Jews by Richard Cohen if you would like to learn more.

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