April 15, 2024
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April 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

More than 300 screens tuned in to hear from Newark native, author and expert on the history of the Jewish mob in Newark, Myron Sugerman. “We honor our past with defenders of Jews against antisemitism and anti-Zionism and have hope for the future by planting seeds for a strong Jewish Greater MetroWest community,” said the introduction by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, sponsor of the event.

“Newark is rich in Jewish history—home to Weequahic High School, the BETH (the Newark hospital run under the auspices of the Newark Jewish Community), and many Jewish cemeteries—dating back to the late 1880s. It is also home to Jewish boxers, Jewish gangsters, and the Minute Men,” read an email from the Federation.

The Newark Minutemen was a group established by infamous Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky in order to protect Jews against rising antisemitism in the wake of Hitler’s rise to power. Sugerman told the story of how Lansky was putting together a group of Jewish men to break up the local pro-Nazi party. Italian mobster and close associate Charles “Lucky” Luciano offered some of his men to help in the effort, to which Lansky replied, “No thank you, Lucky. This is a Jewish problem and it will be resolved with Jewish fists.”

Sugerman’s memoir talks about his experience growing up in the Jewish mob landscape of Newark. “Like lots of Jewish old-timers from the Prohibition Era, my father Barney “Sugie” Sugerman made his living between the grey area between legal business and criminal activity,” reads the first chapter. “The company he founded in 1938 with Doc Stacher and Abe Green, the Runyon Sales Company, sold coin-operated machines—everything from jukeboxes to slot machines to pinball machines which back then were less innocent as you might think.”

And so it may come as no surprise that Sugerman, too, entered the seedy world of his father. “As a kid growing up, even before my bar mitzvah, I used to polish the jukeboxes in Pop’s warehouse. When I got a little older I got involved a little deeper; at age 15 I was making collections from the jukeboxes Runyon owned that we’d placed and operated in bars all over Newark.”

Sugerman regaled the Zoom audience with memories of the gangsters who made up his extended chosen family. He told about how crime syndicate leader Joseph “Doc” Stacher was like a second father to him. “He made a deal with Robert Kennedy, sitting on a park bench, to accept exile to Israel,” he said. “I used to stay with him at the Sheraton Hotel whenever I went to visit Israel.”

Sugerman, who has spent time in federal prison, is a father and grandfather. One son is even an Orthodox rabbi in the Baltimore area.

When asked what he wants his legacy to be, he answered, without hesitation, “A Jew. I’m a proud Jew.”

By Talia Liben Yarmush

 

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