Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Boardwalk Empire & My Jewish Connection to the Mob (Part 1)

Written by: Dave Goodman

Don't let the Cohiba fool you, this is just me living out my Papa's dream of being a lavish real estate developer at the Hotel Riveria in Havana 2 years ago.  That is the primary foundation of my 'connection' to the Jewish mob, but really, I can admit, it is really the dealings with the mob that helped connect me to my Judaism, in a strange way...

Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter, Director and Producer of the HBO hit sensation, Boardwalk Empire is the most relevant connection to this Jewish bond that I share with the mob.  For those of you that do not watch the show, it takes place in the '20's, starring the talented Steve Buscemi in what looks to be a breakout role in his career.  The main focus of the mob dealings is based around alcohol, which I fancy, and the battle to overcome the laws of prohibition (the banning of alcohol, which I do not fancy).  Over 7 million viewers tune into this show every Sunday night at 9pm and I tune in for two reasons: 

a) I love mobsters 
b) Realizing Jewish connections or influence to anything mainstream is a natural pleasure for me.

For those of you that have been on Taglit-Birthright Israel know of one of the founding philanthropist's, Mr. Charles Bronfman, he is the son of Mr.Sam Bronfman (Founder of Bronfman's Distillers Corporation) which later acquired Seagram Co. Ltd.  The Bronfman name fittingly means 'liquor man' in Yiddish.  

Mr. Samuel Bronfman z"l

Mr. Charles Bronfman

Throughout the entire series thus far, it has been Seagram's alcohol flowing through major hubs of social life in Chicago, Atlantic City and New York City through the distribution network of some shady individuals to say the least.  Al Capone is making a name for himself in the streets of Chicago, acquiring territory and peddling hooch like a champion.  Perhaps not in the way that Samuel Bronfman agrees with, but Seagram's bottom line probably didn't mind...

Yet, as much as booze is the devil, I can't help but feel a great sense of pride in the early successes of 'Jewish' booze and its significance in the social lives of Americans in the 1920's.  I mean, the very same money that was exchanged for illegal alcohol (Please note: The Bronfman's production of alcohol in Montreal, Canada with Seagram's was legal at the time, but not in the U.S.), ultimately built the foundation of a philanthropic empire that mobilized my generation to realize their roots of Judaism.  The Birthright-Israel project, was conceived and rolled out in part by Charles, who took over Seagram's with his brother Edward.  Thus, every toast in Boardwalk Empire, is essentially a toast for Birthright Israel!?!

A 'Birthright-Israel' L'chaim on my trip as a participant in 2006
This past week, another Jewish mobster was introduced into the mix, Mr. Meir Lansky!  My Jewish connection to him is more personal.  His character is introduced at a young age in Boardwalk Empire as he is getting his start as a Jewish mobster.  In Part 2 of my Jewish Connection to the Mob, I will illustrate how I would be an acquaintance of his in Havana...that is, if Fidel Castro never showed up.  

Castro & Crew during the revolution on what will be detailed
in 'Part 2' of my Jewish Connection to the Mob
So for those of you who are into the mob and want to learn more about how Jew's have unfortunately, but fortunately, but unfortunately benefited or had a role in the underground business of mob-related activity...look no further than Amazon.  I highly recommend this read!  

Until Part 2... 


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