Even Jewish scam artists were once nice Jewish boys


At a time when Jewish hucksters are dominating financial news (see: Madoff, Bernie; Nadel, Arthur), it might seem an odd moment for a play that, according to The New York Times, amounts to a 75-minute apologia for Jewish crime boss Meyer Lansky. Or is it?

Lansky, who along with comrades Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano, built a small bootlegging operation into a sprawling gambling empire. But in Joseph Bologna’s new play, he’s just a simple Jewish kid chasing the American dream.

From the Times:

When the audience at St. Luke’s Theater first meets Meyer Lansky in Richard Krevolin and Joseph Bologna’s play about that gangster, he is in a restaurant in Tel Aviv expecting to celebrate being granted Israeli citizenship and ruminating on his life. To hear Lansky tell it, he is just a retired businessman who had a head for numbers and who almost single-handedly broke up the American Nazi Party, defeated Hitler and won independence for Israel.

For a more considered treatment of Madoff-Lansky parallels, check out this piece by Ron Rosenbaum in Slate.

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