Sometimes the mere mention of the word “Mafia” is enough to send chills down people’s spines. From the classic Godfather films to more raw and bloody films like Goodfellas, the Italian mafia has been well glorified and chronicled throughout American entertainment. Even in the hit television show The Sopranos, Tony Soprano was an anti-hero we rooted for. The love affair with the mafia is a strange one in society. It is a convergence of respect, money, and power that draws out our inner most carnal feelings to gravitate toward seeing crime syndicates as a romantic dream. However, the harsh realities of mafias and the secret societies they involve is something that fiction itself cannot even account for.
It seems as though each country or religion has its own personal “mafia.” The term is broad and inclusive of a criminal organization that deals with racketeering, drugs, money, and of course, power. Mafias often run territories which have no political boundaries. These territories are fought over and one of the most notorious of all mafias is the Jewish Mafia. Since the main topic of mafia societies tends to focus on the Italian (or Sicilian) Mafia, not nearly as much is known about the Jewish underworld and the people who rule it with iron fists. There are a variety of names for the Jewish Mafia: Jewish Mob, Kosher Nostra or Undzer Shtik, to name just a few. The Jewish Mafia has numerous names and has had even more villains who have come and gone over the years. These are the 14 facts you may not know about the Jewish Mafia.
14. Arnold Rothstein– THE Godfather
Arnold Rothstein is one of the most prominent Jewish crime leaders in U.S. history. The 1920s saw opportunity and Prohibition both collide head-on and Arnold Rothstein was in perfect position to clean up. The New York gangster specialized in bootlegging, loansharking, gambling, and bookmaking. Rothstein also was reportedly responsible for fixing the 1919 World Series and the whole “Black Sox” scandal. His reach and power were far and wide. Rothstein wasn’t your usual hardcore mafia king. He led his organization like a business, a growing corporation that made calculated financial moves and continuously expanded. Rothstein also benefited greatly from Prohibition and was a big bootlegger on the east coast. Nicknamed “The Brain” for his intellect, Rothstein suffered the same kind of end many in his business suffer- death. He was gunned down over a gambling debt; a hit carried out by gamblers who were attempting to steal money from Rothstein. In the hospital and on his deathbed, the police asked Rothstein who was trying to kill him. Rothstein replied, “You stick to your trade. I’ll stick to mine.” Rothstein refused to snitch and passed away in his hospital bed.
13. Las Vegas– The Jewish Impact
The idea of gambling and the explosion of that industry can in part be directly attributed to the Jewish mafia. Bugsy Siegel grew to become one of the most infamous characters in the history of a town that is known for infamy: Las Vegas. Siegel was born in Brooklyn, New York but transplanted out to California after the Prohibition era passed by in 1933. He would arrive on the west coast in 1936 looking to exploit a new business venture, one that the Jewish community was excelling at- gambling. Siegel traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada where he assisted a little known land developer named William Wilkerson in his attempts at launching the original Flamingo Hotel. Siegel financed a few of the original hotels and helped mold what would become the original Las Vegas Strip. The gambling oasis would explode in future decades as a massive tourist destination, but Siegel would never see his vision come to fruition. He was murdered at the Beverly Hills home of his girlfriend, Virginia Hill. Even today, the influence of the Jewish Mafia remains in the present day version of Sheldon Adelson (#9).
12. Israeli Mafia– Crime In The Middle East
The Jewish Mafia flourished in the United States starting in the early 1900s. But the American Jewish Mafia were not the only crime organization to flourish by the Jews. After World War II, Israel was established in the Middle East. There, a country of Jews evolved some intense crime organizations known as the Israeli Mafia. Emerging in the 1970s, the Israeli Mafia is alleged to have as many as 16 families operating in Israel and five more major groups operating around the world. The Israeli Mafia made a big splash in the 1980s when it pulled off one of the biggest gold heists in history when they took the Manhattan Jewelry District for nearly $4 million. The crime syndicate then flourished in Ecstasy trafficking in the US. They have dominated the Ecstasy trade in the 2000s. The Israeli Mafia have emerged as the Jewish Mafia in the United States.
11. Bugsy Siegel– Visionary
As we mentioned, one of the most infamous members of the Jewish crime organization was Bugsy Siegel. Bugsy was born in Brooklyn, New York. Bugsy Siegel was described as handsome and charismatic. Siegel grew to prominence in the rough streets of New York by co-starting the crime syndicate Murder Inc. Siegel continued to expand his power, wealth, and influence during prohibition. He was an influential bootlegger but when bootlegging dried up after prohibition ended, Siegel moved his sights to gambling. He moved out west to California and saw Las Vegas as the next big thing. He invested in the building of casinos and was directly responsible for the advent of the Las Vegas Strip. Siegel was one of the first glorified gangsters. Hollywood loved him and Siegel was influential in creating a business partnership between the Italian and Jewish crime organizations. Alas, Siegel’s life came to a premature end when he was gunned down. A man who people described as “fearless” and the “first to jump into a gunfight” found the wrong end of the gun for the first, and final time, in his life.
10. Money– The Almighty Dollar
There is a stereotype about the Jewish community having to do with money. And of course we have seen the Jewish community. When thinking about the advent of the Jewish Mafia, one must look closely at business. It would be business and money that literally fueled the rise of the Jewish Mafia and the Jewish gangster. The financial prowess of Jewish underworld leaders led to the quick rise of the Jewish Mafia leader during the bootlegging era. From there, using smart business movement and the start of Murder Inc., the Jewish Mafia laid the groundwork for growth. When bootlegging ended, labor unions became the next focus, with an eye on both drug dealing and gambling. Gambling would be established out west in Las Vegas and a different kind of criminal activity evolved for Jewish power brokers: banking. With a firm foothold in illegal activities that had the Jewish community as the underworld bankers, they went legit (at least on the surface) and controlled the flow of money in a variety of ways. After gambling-banking, the Jewish financiers moved into the business of entertainment, a place they have thrived ever since. In recent times, Gerald Levin, Michael Eisner, Edgar Bronfman Sr., Edgar Bronfman Jr., Sumner Redstone, Dennis Dammerman and Peter Chernin have collectively controlled: ABC, NBC, CBS, Turner Broadcasting System, CNN, MTV, Universal Studios, Disney, MCA Records, Geffen Records, DGC Records, GRP Records, Rising Tide Records, Curb/Universal Records, and Interscope Records. Even if Jewish Mob banking went legit long ago, it’s possible that its influence is still felt in the entertainment community.
9. Murder Inc.– Jews And Italians Unite
It all started back with gangsters wanting to pull resources together to create an infrastructure of power and money. This was the coming together of the most powerful Jews and Italians in New York and Chicago. They established themselves as a force. The Italian mafia would take a lot of public hits over the years but make no mistake about it- the Jewish Mafia was side by side with them. Started by Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky, Murder Inc. rose as the most powerful check and balance system in the Tri-state area. Murder Inc., known as The National Crime Syndicate, carried out so many hits that they were one of the most feared racketeering groups ever created. This group of Italian and Jewish hitman left a trail of blood wherever they went and both mafias enjoyed a massive level of control. The relationship of the Jews and the Italians continued all the way through to Las Vegas on the West Coast where they flourished as East Coast business and competition grew. There’s been a long-standing relationship between the Jews and Italians, one that enable both organizations to enjoy massive profitability and expansion.
8. Labor Unions– Building A Labor Movement
The Jewish mafia did more than just make money for themselves. They also ended up coalescing large groups of workers and helped create what became known as labor unions. Labor unions evolved after the advent of the Jewish Mafia. Largely influenced by the business practices of Jews, the Labor Unions evolved as a cohesive unit of employees looking for better benefits. Both Italians and Jews were involved heavily in the development of the unions and moving the power of employees to a centralized location. The unions drew power and money and enabled both the Jewish and Italian mafias to gain control of businesses indirectly. By organizing, they also created a massive revenue stream and used their muscle to influence business owners.
7. The “Tough” Jews– 1960s Rep Change
After World War II the view toward Jews in the world began to change. Whereas there was quite a bit of antisemitism in the United States prior to World War II, this sympathy and empathy that went along with the systematic execution of Jews by Nazis in and around Germany brought a new wave of thinking to the world. In addition to that train of thought, a new era started to emerge in the United States- with boxers and physical enforcers prevalent, the Jews began to take on a little bit of a different Mob personality and the emergence of what was known as tough Jews came forward. Still heavy in business and finding much success when it came to the mighty dollar, they garnered a different kind of respect and found a better foothold in the United States.
6. Entertainment And The Jewish Mafia– Glamorizing The Mafia
The entertainment history has always had a love affair with mobsters. Dating back many years ago to movies like The Roaring ’20s starring James Cagney to more recent films the likes of The Godfather franchise, Scarface, Casino and Goodfellas, just to name a few. The television series The Sopranos gave a more recent glimpse and although there has been a clear fascination with the Italian Mafia in these pieces of entertainment, they all have another thing in common: the influence of Jews. Whether they were mobsters like Mo Green and Bugsy Siegel in the city of Las Vegas or the influential Jewish businessman and mob leader Hyman Roth in the Godfather movies, the footprints of Jews in mafia-based entertainment goes on and on. And the vast majority of them are based on real Jewish mobsters. The link is clear between the Jewish Mafia entities and the movies.
5. Consiglieres– The Trusted Jewish Word
The relationships between Italian mob bosses and Jews is not simply a myth. Everybody needs someone to talk to. Throughout history, powerful men have always wanted a right-hand to confer with. The Jewish community have seemed to spearhead the term “Consigliere”, a position made famous in various movies. It would be the Jewish attorney who often provided key advice for Italian mob bosses. The convergence of the Jewish and Italian mafias were so closely aligned, it was difficult at times to find where one family began and another ended. The two cultures worked in tandem to have a tremendous impact on American culture and society. Consiglieres played a key part in the success of both Italian and Jewish mafias. In the picture above, the fictional character Hesh Rabkin provides Tony Soprano with key advice.
4. Anti Semitism– The Rise Of Jewish Power
During the 1900s, there was already a great deal of prejudice in the United States. It seemed that no matter what foreign group you were affiliated with or what religion you belonged to, any and all minorities had a tough climb to be accepted. This mentality was certainly true of Jews in the United States. Once Jews asserted themselves in business, they began to draw negative looks from other groups. The Jews were exceptional when it came to business and that didn’t go over well with other fledgling groups who weren’t as apt at making money. Then the Jewish Mafia came along and that only exacerbated the situation, making the Anti-Semitic movement grow. The more power Jews gained the more there were negative reactions against them. The Jewish Mafia influenced the development of labor unions and made matters worse. Post-WWII, this negative stigma slowly began to wilt.
3. John Gotti Jr.– “Junior”
Son of mob boss John Gotti, John Gotti Jr. is the epitome of the ties that bonded the Jewish and Italian communities. Gotti Jr.’s mother is Jewish and with his strong Italian bloodlines and connections, Gotti Jr. grew as an influential force during the 1990s and 2000s. Gotti “Junior” assumed control of the Gambino crime family from 1992-1999. From 2004-2009, the Federal Government went after Gotti Jr. for racketeering charges but was unable to make anything stick. He assumed another one of his father’s names as “Teflon Jr.” a nod to his old man, the original “Teflon Don.” After ruling the Gambino family as a Jewish-Italian mob boss, the powerful crime kingpin has since faded off the radar since the government dropped their case against him. Gotti Jr. did prove that the Jewish influence in the mafia was indeed still alive and well in the 2000s, an old school call back to the times when Jews and Italians ruled together.
2. Meyer Lansky – The “Mob’s Accountant”
Meyer Lansky was one of the most powerful men of the Jewish Mafia age. He was born in 1902 and when he passed away in 1983 in Miami, Florida he was worth over $300 million. Lansky was known as the “Mob Accountant.” In reality, he was much more. Along with Charles “Lucky Luciano,” Lansky helped create Murder Inc. And beyond that, the man known for his money smarts developed one of the largest gambling empires ever. Lansky’s operations stretched clear across the world. Lansky was rumored to own a piece in casinos all around the world from Las Vegas to The Bahamas to Cuba and London. Lansky’s greatest ability was longevity. He was able to run or be a part of organized crime at the highest of levels for half a century. He was one of the greatest modern gangsters in terms of financial success. The character from The Godfather II, Hyman Roth, is largely based on Lansky’s life. Lansky lived into his 80s, an achievement in itself in the underworld.
1. Hollywood– The New Business
There has long been a stereotype that Hollywood is controlled by the Jews. To this end one can consider a few different facts. While blanket statements that people such as Mel Gibson and others have made are rightfully frowned upon, it is true that the business of Hollywood is often run predominantly by powerful businessmen who happen to be Jewish. In what can only be seen as a brilliant business move long ago, Jewish investors saw opportunity in the entertainment business. As bootlegging dried out and the world began to change, Jewish Mafia money men saw Hollywood as the new banking industry for their illicit cash. It is very similar to banking in a lot of ways- the key in Hollywood, as well as in banking, is to control the game. And that is something that powerful, busy Jewish businessman have been able to do. They have controlled the game in Hollywood very well and in that have made billions of dollars. In essence, this could be a version of the new Jewish Mafia, Hollywood style. Of course the main difference is that instead of guns, Hollywood uses cocaine. And instead of violence, there’s just a lot of women and parties!