April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Myron Sugerman Discusses the Jewish Mob at WO Chabad

The anticipation was palpable as Myron Sugerman stepped to the podium on Monday evening. A multi-generational audience sat at rapt attention as they waited for his opening remarks. Sugerman did not disappoint.

“I want to show you how an Israeli patriot born in the United States would have been a gangster, and an American Jewish gangster born in Israel would have been a patriot,” he began.

He then delved into the history of the American Jewish mob, specifically in Newark, New Jersey, beginning with Lucky Luciano’s close relationship with Meyer Lansky, Benny (“Bugsy, but he would kill you if you called him that”) Siegel and Longy Zwillman, the undisputed boss of New Jersey. From there, Sugerman went on to explain that a “gangster” or “outlaw” is sometimes a matter of perception, giving examples of contributions of the Jewish mob to the Jewish people, both in the US and in Israel.

The Jews in the Newark ghetto were protected by Longy Zwillman, especially as anti-Semitism was rising in the US in the 1930s. The Minutemen came together to fight the American Nazi party. They fought endlessly with the Nazis in Newark until, eventually, the American Nazis in New Jersey and elsewhere in the US “simply gave up.”

When the SS Normandie was blown up and sunk in New York Harbor, and sabotage was suspected, Meyer Lansky was instrumental in reaching out to Lucky Luciano to ensure the future safety and security of the harbor. There were never again incidents of sabotage in the harbor of New York.

Sugerman went on to discuss the Jewish mob’s contributions to the State of Israel. He explained how the mob helped Israel defend itself in the 1940s, first against the British and, after the establishment of the State of Israel, against the armies of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq. Menachem Begin of the Irgun and David Ben Gurion of the Haganah, as well as Yitzhak Shamir’s Lehi, or “Stern Gang,” all benefitted from their relationship with well-known American Jewish mobsters.

“I told you that an American Jewish gangster born in Israel would have been a patriot, and vice versa. I leave you to draw your own conclusions,” Sugerman concluded, and then he opened the floor to questions. When asked how he knew so much about the history of the American Jewish mob, he explained,“When other parents were telling their kids bedtime stories to put them to sleep, my father was keeping me awake with these stories.” 

Sugerman, who regularly attends Chabad of West Orange, told the audience that he was first  encouraged to come to Chabad by Rabbi Moshe Herson of the Rabbinical College of America. “Chabad is the greatest experience on this earth. Chabad makes you a better human being. It doesn’t want you to change, it just wants you to be better,” he remarked to thunderous applause.

A young boy in the audience then stood up and asked, “How did your father get into the business?” That was the question on most people’s minds, along with the unasked question, “Were you in the Jewish mob?” To this question, however, no true answer was forthcoming. Maybe Sugerman is saving that for his next lecture.

By Jill Kirsch

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