By: Syed Haroon Haider Gilani

The Mafia (also known as Cosa Nostra) is originally a Sicilian criminal society which is believed to have emerged in late 19th century Sicily, and the first such society to be referred to as a mafia (although it is not the first organized criminal society to appear in Italy). It is a loose association of criminal groups that share a common organizational structure and code of conduct. Each group, known as a “family”, “clan” or “cosca“, claims sovereignty over a territory in which it operates its rackets – usually a town or village or a part of a larger city.

Offshoots of the Mafia emerged in the United States, Canada, and in Australia during the late 19th century following waves of Southern Italian emigration.

The Sicilian Mafia has no formal name, as members see no need for one. Nonetheless, in many Italian publications the term “Cosa Nostra” is used to distinguish the Sicilian Mafia from other criminal networks that are also sometimes referred to as “mafias” (such as the Camorra, the “Neapolitan Mafia”).

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When the American mafioso Joseph Valachi testified before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate Committee on Government Operations in 1962, he revealed that American mafiosi referred to their organization by the term cosa nostra (“our thing” or “this thing of ours”). At the time, it was understood as a proper name, fostered by the FBI and disseminated by the media. The designation gained wide popularity and almost replaced the term Mafia. The FBI even added the article to the term, calling it La Cosa Nostra (in Italy this article is not used when referring to the Sicilian Mafia).

Italian investigators did not take the term seriously, believing it was only used by the American Mafia. Then, in 1984, the Mafia turncoat Tommaso Buscetta revealed to the anti-mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone that the term was used by the Sicilian Mafia as well. According to Buscetta, the word “mafia” was a literary creation. Other defectors, such as Antonio Calderone and Salvatore Contorno, confirmed this. Mafiosi introduce known members to each other as belonging to cosa nostra (“our thing”) or la stessa cosa (“the same thing”), e.g. “he is the same thing, a mafioso, as you”.

Offshoots of the Mafia emerged in the United States, Canada, and in Australia during the late 19th century following waves of Southern Italian emigration. The American Mafia (usually called simply the Mafia within the United States; also known as Cosa Nostra (sometimes lower case like “cosa nostra”) or La Cosa Nostra (Joe Valachi announced the name, and the ‘La’ part is what the FBI has given the name as well, even abbreviating to LCN), also Our Thing, and This Thing of Ours, it is an Italian-American criminal society and offshoot of the Sicilian Mafia. Much like the Sicilian Mafia, The American Mafia had no formal name and was a secret criminal society.

Jewish involvement in crimes and National Crime Syndicate

National Crime Syndicate referred to the entire U.S. Mafia, It emerged on the East Coast of the United States during the late 19th century following waves of Sicilian and Southern Italian emigration. As revealed by the findings of U.S. Senate Special Committee in the 1950s chaired by Estes Kefauver, it was described as a confederation of mainly Italian and Jewish organized crime groups throughout the U.S. Meyer Lansky (born Meyer Suchomlanski) (July 4, 1902 – January 15, 1983; known as the “Mob’s Accountant”) was a Jewish-American organized crime figure who, along with his associate Charles “Lucky” Luciano, was instrumental in the development of the “National Crime Syndicate” in the United States.

According to some writers on organized crime, the Syndicate was founded or established at a  May 1929  conference  in Atlantic City, attended by leading underworld figures throughout the country, including Al Capone, Meyer Lansky,  Johnny “The Fox” Torrio, Frank Costello, Joe Adonis, Dutch Schultz, Abner “Longy” Zwillman, Louis “Lepke”  Buchalter,  Vince Mangano,  gambler Frank Erickson, Frank Scalice and Albert “Mad Hatter” Anastasia. Others describe the Atlantic City meeting as a coordination and strategy conference for bootleggers.

The supposed enforcement arm of the Syndicate was what the media dubbed Murder, Inc, a name given by the  press to organized crime activities in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s that resulted in hundreds of murders on behalf of the Jewish controlled and operated American mafia.. Agang of Brooklyn thugs who carried out murders in the 1930s and 1940s for various crime bosses. It was headed by Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro and Anastasia, who reported to commission members Lepke and Adonis. It included many infamous mobsters such as Bugsy Siegel, the man who would later “build” Las Vegas.

Murder, Inc., was established after the formation of the commission of the National Crime Syndicate, to which it ultimately answered. Largely headed by former mob enforcers Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Meyer Lansky, it also had members from Buchalter’s labor-slugging gang (in partnership with Tommy “Three-Fingered Brown” Lucchese) as well as from another group of enforcers from Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, of the late 1920s led by Martin “Bugsy” Goldstein and Abe “Kid Twist” Reles. Buchalter, in particular, and Joe Adonis occasionally, gave the outfit its orders from the board of directors of the syndicate. Albert “The Mad Hatter” Anastasia was the troupe’s operating head, or “Lord High Executioner”, assisted by Lepke’s longtime associate Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro.

It is alleged that Charles Burns, a police bodyguard of Reles was involved in the disappearance of Judge Crater in 1930. In 1932, Abe Wagner informed on the syndicate to the police. He fled to Saint Paul, Minnesota and adopted a disguise to evade possible pursuit. Two killers, George Young and Joseph Schafer, found and shot him but were later apprehended. Bugsy Siegel failed to get them released.

In the 1930s, Buchalter used Murder, Inc. to murder witnesses and suspected informants when he was investigated by crusading prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey. In one case, on May 11,1937, four killers hacked loan shark George Rudnick to pieces, on the mere suspicion that he was an informant (see below). On October 1, 1937, they shot and seriously wounded Buchalter’s ex-associate Max Rubin. Rubin had disobeyed Buchalter’s orders to leave town and “disappear” in order to avoid being summoned as a witness against Buchalter.

How Jews gained power into American Society

Jewish history is largely one of derogation, often culminating in violence, both individual or mass, spontaneous or organized, local or continental, frequently lethal. Jews have always had their share of villains and thugs of which a sizeable contingent helped develop, maintain and expand organized crime. Largely originating from the immigration from Eastern Europe during the late-19th and early 20th centuries, Jewish mobsters such as Max “Kid Twist” Zwerbach, “Big” Jack Zelig, and Vach “Cyclone Louie” Lewis, competed with Jewish-American organized crime was not exclusively a New York phenomenon, however, as seen during the early 20th century in other major cities with a considerable Jewish-American population as predominantly Jewish-American gangs operated as well, such as The Purple Gang in Detroit.

As would their Italian counterparts, gangs specializing in extortion began operating in the heavily Jewish neighborhoods of New York’s Lower East Side most prominently the so-called Yiddish Black

Hand headed by Jacob Levinsky, Charles “Charlie the Cripple” Litoffsky and Joseph Toplinsky during the early 1900s. Early in the century a significant Jewish underworld already existed, giving birth to a litany of criminal slang with Yiddish origins. A pimp was known as a “simcha,” a detective as a “shamus” and a loafer as a “trombenik.” Jewish-American organized crime arose among slum kids who in pre-puberty stole from pushcarts, who as adolescents extorted money from store owners, who as young adults practicedschlamming (wielding an iron pipe wrapped in newspaper against striking workers or against scabs) – until they developed into well organized criminal gangs in a wide variety of criminal enterprises boosted by Prohibition.

Jews have been involved in prostitution, usurious money lending, money laundering, booze running (during Prohibition), illicit drug sales, illegal gambling, extortion and contract murders. The violence accompanying these criminal activities was rarely directed against law enforcement agents, some of whom were “on the take,” mostly it was to eliminate competitors, punish tardy or defaulting gambling debtors as a warning to others and to terrorize reluctant “protection” – get money from clients by, for example, breaking their store windows.

In 1908, New York City’s head cop stated that half of the city’s criminals were Jews. its most significant portion involving financial swindles, for example, those of Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken, both convicted in “junk bond” deals, in which he was found guilty and sentenced. Their role was also significant in New York’s burgeoning labor movement, especially the garment and trucking unions, as well as poultry workers. Jewish-American organized crime was a matter of obvious concern to the community, because Jewish gangsterism was seen as irreconcilable with the ethics of Judaism and provided fodder for prejudice against Jews. It did not exemplify Jewish immigration and its offspring, nevertheless it was exploited by anti-semites and anti-immigration forces as arguments to bolster their prejudices. However, it did exist in large enough reality to permeate the Lower East Side and Brownsville areas in New York City, and other major American cities.

Prohibition in the United States provided enormous opportunities on both sides of the border. Moe Dalitz was called “the first Jewish admiral” because his “navy” criss-crossed Lake Erie, bringing Canadian booze to thirsty Americans. In Canada, the Bronfman family benefited from cross-border bootlegging operations. After repeal, organized crime drifted into gambling and was heavily involved in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. And, of course, the illegal drug market now involves enough money to be considered one of the biggest international businesses.

The list of notorious Jewish underworld figures includes thugs like Allen Dorfman, Phil Strauss, “Tick Tock” Tannenbaum, Harry Greenberg, Jake Guzik, “Dutch” Schultz, Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro, Abe Reles, Mickey Cohen, Harold Konigsberg, Meyer Rosenberg, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Ruby Stein, Joseph Stacher, Harry Teitelbaum, Harry Greenberg, Louis Kravitz, Louis Strauss, Richard Wiseman, Abner Zwillman and, of course, Meyer Lansky, who, despite his diminutive physique, started as a “shtarker,” a “muscle man,” but abandoned the personal use of violence, operating as the chief “financial planner” for the mobs, especially with Lucky Luciano, with whom he had close and long-lasting personal ties. Some of them, like Cohen, were handsome, highly virile men who attracted more public admiration, especially from women, than condemnation. The attraction criminal life has for the general public is a real, on-going phenomenon that should be subjected to a serious analysis, especially by the entertainment industry, which responds to it and promotes it.

AS stated by Eugene Kaellis is a retired academic living in New Westminster, “I grew up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, the centre of what was then Murder, Inc., a gang of thugs, all Jews, who carried out contract killings of foremen plaguing their workers, union organizers, gamblers reluctant to pay off their debts and, although they allegedly avoided personally motivated killings, occasionally an unwanted spouse or a romance rival. One young man who lived on my block was killed because he didn’t pay off his bookie after getting five broken fingers worth of notice. Everyone agreed he had it coming. How could bookies make a living if their clients could default on a bet?

Bookies typically had an “office” in a booth of a soda parlor/candy store that had two public coin-operated telephones. Since so few neighborhood people had phones, I used to earn money hanging around and fetching someone who was wanted on the phone, for which I got a nickel or a dime and lots of good exercise. Only one of the two public phones in the candy store could be used for this. If anyone tried to use the other, the bookie, whose phone connection with “the syndicate,” rumored to be in New Jersey, was essential to his business, would leave his paperwork for a moment, reach over and push down the receiver. Nobody ever complained.

On my way to school once, I passed a garage in which a man had been killed with an ice pick. Everyone had an icebox so it was a convenient weapon. If the instrument penetrated the heart, each contraction would force blood into the pericardium, causing back pressure that would squeeze the heart to stop. It was all quite physiological and it all happened quickly.

As kids, we saw all of this, the murders, the gambling, the pimp, always with a pearl grey homburg, buying fancy lingerie for his “girls.”

–          In 1935, the Chicago police listed Luciano and five Jews, including Luciano’s close associate, Lansky, and four other Jews, as the “Big Six” of Chicago’s crime syndicate.

–          In 1963, a United States Senate subcommittee concluded that of the 29 leading mobsters in the “Chicago family,” 14 were Jews.

Lansky, Siegel and others were instrumental in promoting the gaming industry into big business, starting with Saratoga Springs and going on to Las Vegas and Atlantic City. While Lansky was certainly a catalyst, once governments at all levels became aware of the revenue to be made from gambling, it became part of our licit culture.

One thing of which Lanksy was especially proud is that one of his sons graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Lansky always considered himself a patriot, as did other organized crime figures. On at least two occasions, they assisted the government during the Second World War. Once was in convincing New York’s Italian fishermen community to help make observations about offshore enemy activity when German U-boats were exacting a terrible toll on U.S. shipping of men and material to Britain. The other time was in supplying information about connections in Sicily before the Anglo-American invasion of that island. The Mafiosi were very happy to see Mussolini go. He was their most implacable enemy, much more effective, using his dictatorial powers, than any postwar Italian government. But, of course, his state crimes vastly outdid anything the Mafia were equipped to do.

When Lansky, who had done small jail time and only once, was being seriously investigated, he sought refuge under the Law of Return in Israel, to which he had consistently made heavy financial contributions and was very disappointed when he was turned down. He died at the age of 83 in Florida, where he had been living in retirement for some time.

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