The Jewish MafiaOrganized crime in America was born of the amalgamation of the two most powerful ethnic crime groups in the underworld of the early 1930s — the Italian mafiosi and the Jewish gangsters. The prime architect of the so-called Jewish or Kosher Mafia, as some journalists referred to it, was Meyer Lansky, who judiciously pulled the strings that brought many powerful Jewish gangsters around the country under the umbrella of the emerging national crime syndicate.
Lansky worked closely with Lucky Luciano and aided him in his fight against the old-line Mafiosi then under the competing leaderships of Joe the Boss Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano. These old-world Sicilians, especially Masseria, hated gangsters of other ethnic derivation, cooperated with them only when absolutely necessary and looked forward to the day they could get rid of them. Luciano and Lansky realized there was no room in the underworld for such counterproductive bigotry, and they plotted to get rid of both Masseria and Maranzano.
After a bloody war and much intrigue that ended in 1931, both Masseria and Maranzano had been eradicated. Now it became necessary for Lansky and Luciano to “sell” their program of “brotherhood” to their Jewish and Italian followers.Lansky set about the task of uniting the Jewish gangs across the country. His missionary work brought in the Purple Gang from Detroit and the Moe Dalitz forces operating in Cleveland. He followed this up with a momentous convention of East Coast forces at the Franconia Hotel in New York City on November 11, 1931. Those attending included Bugsy Siegel, a longtime partner of Lansky and Luciano; Louis “Lepke” Buchalter; Joseph “Doc” Stacher; Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro; Hyman “Curly” Holtz; Louis “Shadows” Kravits; Harry Tietlebaum; Philip “Little Farvel” Kovalick; and Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg.
Lansky explained to the participants that Luciano had successfully united the Italian mafiosi, and that the Lansky-Luciano “combination” or national crime syndicate was the wave of the future. All the participants agreed, and the Franconia conference established a firm platform: “The yids and dagos would no longer fight each other,” the quotation attributed to the loquacious Siegel.
Jewish gangsters who were thought to be constitutionally unsuited to the new “interfaith” combination of shared spoils with other ethnics, such as the “unsuited” Waxey Gordon, bootleg king of Philadelphia, were eliminated. The combination did this by continuing its business dealings with Gordon and then feeding information to Internal Revenue so that he could be put away on income tax charges. He was then replaced by the far more compliant Nig Rosen and Boo Boo Hoff.
The fact that some in attendance at the Franconia meeting — Big Greenie and Bugsy Siegel — were eventually murdered did not alter the interfaith feelings of the combination. Bugsy might well have appreciated the fact that his murder was approved by a combined vote of, to use his words, “yids and dagos.”Jack Dragna, the late boss of the Los Angeles Mafia, gave a fairly succinct description of the Jewish Mafia to Jimmy Fratianno, the hit man who later turned informer: “Meyer’s got a Jewish family built along the same lines as our thing. But his family’s all over the country. He’s got guys like Lou Rhody and Dalitz, Doc Stacher, Gus Greenbaum, sharp fucking guys, good businessmen, and they know better than try to fuck us.”
Only on the last statement was Dragna suffering a delusion—or perhaps he was trying to impress Fratianno. The fact is that whenever Lansky gave an order Dragna jumped.