Gangsters vs. Nazis: How Jewish Mobsters Battled Nazis in WW2 Era America Book Review

For the most part, the bad rap that the mafia gets is for a good reason. If what the media says is true, their activities obviously cross moral and legal borders. But what happens when their “work” helps to make the world a better place?

Gangsters vs. Nazis: How Jewish Mobsters Battled Nazis in WW2 Era America, by Michael Benson, was published earlier this year. As the antisemitic temperature rises in Europe in the 1930s and the Nazi‘s vision of the world spread, many Americans remain silent.

The only ones who are not afraid to speak up (and knock a few heads) are members of the Jewish mob. In different cities across the country, they sent the message that the Nazis and their American allies would not be tolerated.

I loved this book. It was a fun read. It came off not as a standard history book, but as a fun ride through an era that was dark and difficult. It has an Inglorious Basterds vibe and an opportunity to live (and fight) vicariously through the narrative.

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Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Gangsters vs. Nazis: How Jewish Mobsters Battled Nazis in WW2 Era America is available wherever books are sold.

P.S. I am trying to not sound alarmist, but America in 2022 is scarily becoming Germany in 1939. A recent online survey among employers revealed that 25% of hiring managers will set aside certain applicants simply because that person is Jewish.


The Price of Hate: Thomas Meixner

Hate of any kind twists our minds. It makes us believe something that is patently false and leads us down a road of death and destruction.

Back in October, Thomas Meixner was murdered. His crime was speaking out against antisemitism. The man who is accused of killing him (who will not be directly named in this post) took his life because he believe that Meixner was Jewish. He was not Jewish.

What it is going to take to force people to open their eyes? Antisemitism is real and it still exists. I would love to say that it ended in 1945, but it didn’t.

The only way to stop it is to speak out and make it clear that it is wrong and unacceptable. Until that happens, we will continue to mourn the loss of innocent lives.

May his memory be a blessing.

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American Resistance: The Inside Story of How the Deep State Saved the Nation Book Review

Whether in life, in business, or in sports, a team is only as good as its leader and visa versa. But what happens when thet person in charge is not equipped or capable of doing the job?

David Rothkopf‘s new book, American Resistance: The Inside Story of How the Deep State Saved the Nation, was published earlier this month. In short, the author describes how members of the administration of the former guy did their best to keep the country running while tamping down on the chaos.

Some of these names on the list are ones that have become well-known over the past few years: Alexander Vindman, Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, etc. Rothkopf goes into detail in regard to the battle between those who were doing their jobs and others who were looking out to use power for power’s sake.

This book is fantastic. It gave me hope that there are still good people in our government. They understand how important it is to protect and fight for our democracy. They also had first-hand knowledge of how easily it can be distorted to fit someones less than moral agenda.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

American Resistance: The Inside Story of How the Deep State Saved the Nation is available wherever books are sold.

Stutz Movie Review

Talk therapy is one of the most common forms of working through mental illness. Speaking to a therapist allows one to air their grievances (so to speak) in an emotionally healthy manner.

The new Netflix documentary Stutz is a conversation between actor Jonah Hill and his psychiatrist, Phil Stutz. Over the course of 136 minutes, both men spill their guts (figuratively speaking). Hill talks about being known as a plus-sized actor and the downside of fame. Stutz delves into his past and how his own trauma has gotten him to this point in his life.

This film is fantastic. I loved the honesty of both men. Filmed in mostly black and white, it speaks to the power of the importance of respecting mental health. As someone who has been grappling with it for many years, I related to Hill and his struggles. I also appreciated Stutz’s approach to working with his patients and helping them to achieve their goals.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Stutz is available for streaming on Netflix.

She Said Movie Review

There are a few events every decade that defines that time. Back in 2017, that event was the revelation of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

The new film, She Said, is based on the book of the same name by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan play Kantor and Twohey. After investigating the sexual assault and rape allegations against a certain former President, they turn their attention to the rumors that have followed Weinstein for decades.

After being hit by brick wall after brick wall, Kantor and Twohey finally hit paydirt. Most of the women who they have reached out to are hesitant to talk. Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle), Rowena Chiu (Angela Yeoh), Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton), and Ashley Judd (playing herself) are just four of a long list of victims who finally come forward.

As they get closer to the truth, the danger becomes more apparent. Weinstein throws his weight around and threatens both the paper and the reporters themselves. But Kantor and Twohey have backbones made of steel and are not afraid to get their hands dirty to reveal the truth.

I’m not one to make predictions very often. But with this movie, I am going to make two bold ones. The first is that come award season, it will do very well. The second is that it will make most, if not all top ten lists at the end of next month.

Everyone should see She Said if they have not done so already. Mulligan and Kazan are fantastic in their roles. The tension is so tight that one could walk across it. As soon as I thought that the narrative was slowing down, it picked right back up again.

I feel like it is Hollywood’s way of both apologizing and redeeming itself for the mistake of looking the other way for far too long. It is both a love letter to journalism and a warning to anyone who would consider such acts in any place. If you do decide to think with your lower appendage without considering the other person, you will be caught and you will be punished.

Do I recommend it? Without a doubt.

She Said is presently in theaters.

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Where Were You in ’92? Podcast Review

Every once in a while, a year comes along that is so culturally important that it changes us in some way.

The new podcast, Where Were You in ’92? examines the most iconic songs from 1992 and the impact that music has had since its initial release. Host Jason Lamphier interviews artists, producers, music video directors, and others to examine why this specific year opened the door to the world that we live in today.

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To provide some context, I was in junior high school in 1992. So obviously, there were certain things that were over my head at that point. That being said, I have enjoyed the two episodes that have aired so far. The insights provided have given me a rearview perspective that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It is also a nice trip down memory lane for those of us who remember that time.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

New episodes of Where Were You in ’92? are released every Wednesday.

Sanditon Character Review: Sir Edward Denham

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the book and the television show Sanditon. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

Fans of Jane Austen know a bad boy when they see one. He says and does all of the right things. He appears to be sincere and in terms of courtship, what the heroine is looking for in a spouse. But underneath the smiles and niceties is an ulterior motive that will eventually be exposed.

In Sanditon, that bad boy is Sir Edward Denham (Jack Fox). He is not above lying, fudging the facts, or pretending to be something that he is not to get his way. Living in a rundown mansion with his step-sister, Esther (Charlotte Spencer) Edward believes that he is entitled to the good life and his aunt, Lady Denham’s (Anne Reid) fortune. He and Esther are competing with their cousin, Clara Brereton (Lily Sacofsky) as to whom will be their aunt’s heir.

He also tries to impress (under his aunt’s direction) Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke). Edward is quickly shot down.

When Lord Babington (Mark Stanley) comes calling for Esther, she immediately turns him down. She can only see her stepbrother, who is a master of manipulation. But when Edward sleeps with Clara while their aunt is ill in a bid to find her will, his true character is revealed. Disinherited and without a penny to his name, Edward is forced out of Sanditon.

When he returns, he is out for revenge. Knowing that Esther is happily married to a now off-screen Lord Babington, he does everything in his power to ruin that happiness. Now an officer in the military, he has impregnated Clara and continues in his manipulations. He makes everyone believe that Esther (who has already had a couple of miscarriages) has lost her marbles and wants his and Clara’s son for her own.

But, like in the past, his schemes are revealed and he is once more sent away. Clara gives her son to Esther to raise, knowing that she will never be able to give him the home he needs.

To sum it up: He clearly is driven by his ego and insecurities. When one relies on these facets of themselves, their judgment and abilities to make decisions are hampered. Edward can only see to the end of his nose and his needs. What others want is unimportant.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

The Summer Place Book Review

Family is complicated. We love them and we spend time with them. That does not mean, however, that it is sunshine and roses all of the time.

Jennifer Weiner‘s new novel, The Summer Place, was released back in May. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sarah Danhauser’s 22-year-old stepdaughter Ruby announces that she is engaged. Moreover, Ruby is determined to marry her fiance in three months’ time. The preferred location is the family’s summer house in Cape Cod.

Despite the fact that Sarah is doing her best to support Ruby, it cannot go unignored that Ruby spoke to her safta (grandmother) before telling her parents. Veronica (Sarah’s mother) would like one last hurrah before the property is sold to someone else.

As the months go by and the wedding gets closer, each character starts to reveal themselves to the reader and the secrets that they have been hiding. When they finally reveal the truth, it becomes a question of how that truth will be accepted (if at all).

I loved this book. It is an exceptional read that immediately pulled me in. The people in this novel are three-dimensional and human. In going through their individual journies, they reveal our common humanity and the flaws that we all have.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Summer Place is available wherever books are sold.

Aryeh Shechopek Was Killed in Jerusalem Simply Because He Was Jewish

Jerusalem is a beautiful city. Both ancient and modern, it is home to the world’s three great faiths. Walking through her streets is to walk through history and in the footsteps of the generations that have come before us.

It is also a site of murder, hate, and destruction. Earlier this week, two explosions shook the town. By the time to smoke cleared, eighteen people were injured and one person was killed.  Aryeh Shechopek was fifteen and had dual citizenship in both Israel and Canada.

This boy, who had his entire future ahead of him, was only killed because he is a Jew living in Israel. Nothing more and nothing less.

What I don’t get is why the Palestinian leadership continues to think (and brainwash their citizens) that violence is the answer. It is obviously not. We are here to stay. This is our ancestral homeland, just as it is the ancestral homeland of the Arabs and the Christians.

What I want for the region (and for the rest of the world, as pie in the sky as it seems) is peace. No one, especially a child, should die because of who they are or where they live.

I am going to end this post with a quote from Golda Meir. It is as timely now as it was during her era.

If the Arabs put down their guns there would be no more fighting. If the Israelis put down theirs there would be no more Israel.”

May his memory be a blessing. Z”l.

Flashback Friday: Bring It On Again (2004)

When a film is successful, the obvious next step is a sequel. The question is, does it hold up or is it nothing more than an easy cash grab for the studio?

The 2004 straight-to-video movie Bring It on: Again is the follow-up to Bring It On (2000). Whittier (Anne Judson-Yager) and Monica (Faune Chambers Watkins) are college freshmen who want to join the cheerleading squad. When they are rebuffed by the team captain and queen bee Tina (Bree Turner), Whittier and Monica decide to form their own team.

The challenge is the following: only one squad can go to nationals. Will Bree and her establishment team win or will misfits and outsiders have their chance to shine?

There is a reason it skipped theaters and went straight to video. The generic “David vs. Goliath” narrative is predictable almost to the point of becoming boring. While its predecessor had at least some tension, there is none to speak of in this movie.

Do I recommend it? Only if there is nothing else to watch.

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