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.

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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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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.

Republican Fuckery Part V: McConnell & Thomas Deligitimize Their Marriages While McCarthy Denies Omar Committee Spot

The true sign of any living democracy is the ability to work with someone across the political aisle, regardless of the number of topics that you disagree with them on.

Last week, Mitch McConnell voted against the Respect for Marriage Act. In short, this legislation protects both interracial and same-sex marriage at the federal level. Not surprisingly, only a handful of Republicans voted with their Democrat colleagues in voting for the law.

I don’t get it. McConnell is married to Elaine Chao, who is AAPI. Back in July, when Roe was overturned, Clarence Thomas (who is married to a White woman, Ginni Thomas) made a similar statement. Basically, they are stating that they are ok with making their own marriages illegal. I used to think that they are/were delusional. Now they appear to be a bunch of fools.

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Meanwhile, Kevin McCarthy has already stated that if he is elected Speaker of the House, Ilhan Omar will be removed from her committee assignments. His reasoning as is follows:

“Congresswoman Omar, her antisemitic comments that have gone forward, we’re not going to allow her to be on Foreign Affairs,” McCarthy told host Maria Bartiromo, referring to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

While her antisemitic utterances cannot and should not be ignored, this is rich coming from McCarthy. One of his party members, Marjorie Taylor Greene, has not been shy about her own anti-Jewish views. Moreover, his attempts to make an example of her were nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

The only way to move forward and heal from the last few years is to come together and work with one another. But that requires both sides to hold out their hand in a proverbial acceptance of one’s differences. That can only happen if the Republicans as a party, are willing to come to the table. As it appears now, that is not happening anytime soon.

Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence Book Review

Rape and sexual assault are unfortunately a part of human history. For as long as anyone can remember, women have dealt with this reality on a daily basis.

Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence, by Ken Auletta, was published in July. This biography tells the story of former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the 2017 revelation of the numerous women he forced himself on.

Born to a Jewish family in Queens, Weinstein was an insecure boy who grew into an insecure man. Though this business acumen is notable, how he treated people (and women specifically) is another story. Though there were instances of kindness and generosity, those events were few and far between. He was temperamental, impatient, arrogant, and threw his power around like a frisbee.

The stories of the women Weinstein assaulted are basically the same. He would turn on the charm and make them believe that he was genuinely interested. He would then invite them to his hotel room to discuss possible career opportunities. Once that hotel room door closed, it was just a matter of time.

For obvious reasons, this book is hard to read. It is a long read and the subject is obviously a difficult one.

The psychological profile that Auletta presents is that of a bully. Like all bullies, he has unresolved issues. Instead of dealing with them in a healthy manner, he lashes out and takes his anger out on others.

If nothing else, it should get us all angry. The problem is not just Weinstein’s actions, it is the complicity of everyone around him. As Auletta points out, his sexual reputation was not unknown. Instead of rallying around his victims, the majority stayed silent. If they had the gall to speak out, there were consequences. It was only after the initial revelations in 2017 that the silence was acknowledged and genuine change started to occur.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would also state that this is one of the top five books of the year.

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The Matchmaker’s Gift: A Novel Book Review

The concept of marrying for love is a relatively new one. In the past, marriage was a business arrangement. Your spouse was based on your status in society, not the person who made you happy.

Lynda Cohen Loigman‘s new novel, The Matchmaker’s Gift: A Novel, was published in September. In the early 20th century, Sara Glikman has just emigrated to America with her family. Moving to the Lower East Side, she has recently discovered that she has a talent for making matches.

The problem is that she is a girl. The men who make a living doing the same thing are far from pleased that their competition is a young lady. After a decade of doing her work in secret, Sara has to find the courage to stand up for herself.

Decades later, Sara’s granddaughter Abby is a divorce lawyer, representing the rich and famous. A child of divorce herself, she takes a cynical view of romance. Soon after Sara’s passing, Abby inherits a series of journals that contains details of her grandmother’s matchmaking. As she begins to go through the pages, she begins to question her career choices and her opinion on love.

I have been a fan of this author since her first book. Kudos to her for creating a dual timeline that is believable and easy to follow. In my experience (as both a reader and a writer), this is one of the harder narratives to craft. The balance between the individual stories while slowly weaving them together is akin to walking a literary tightrope. If one is out of balance, the reader is likely to walk away.

I loved it. It was compelling, entertaining, and inspiring. Sara is a proto-feminist, standing up against those who stand in her way simply because of her gender.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would go as far as to say that this is one of my favorite new books of the year.

The Matchmaker’s Gift: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

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Exile Podcast Review

It is easy to assume that the world is saved by Generals and Presidents. While it is true that they have a hand in restoring normalcy, we should never forget that one ordinary person can make a difference.

The new podcast, Exile, started airing earlier this month. it is sponsored by the Leo Baeck Institute and hosted by Mandy Patinkin. Each episode tells the story of a person of German Jewish descent who fought against fascism during World War II. Using archived letters, stories, and first-hand accounts, each subject is given their due as a hero or heroine in their own right.

As I listened to the episodes that have been released, I can’t help but think that history is one more repeating itself. Around the world, democracy is slowly being replaced by other forms of government that do not respect the rights of the average citizen. The lessons are there, if we are willing to stop and listen.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

New episodes of Exile are released every Tuesday.

Kristallnacht: The Canary in the Coal Mine

Looking back on history, there are moments in which we should have seen what was coming. Instead, we looked away and in doing so, opened the door to death and destruction.

Kristallnacht is one of those moments. The 84th anniversary was this past Wednesday and Thursday.

It takes something deep and powerful inside of us to go through something like the Holocaust and still thrive. I would love to say that we all have learned from the past. But being that antisemitism is once more rearing its ugly head.

It should have been the veritable canary in the coal mine. I can’t help but wonder how many millions of lives might have been saved had the world not turned its back.

But we will never know how a war might have been prevented and an entire generation lost to hate.

Armageddon Time Movie Review

There are certain genres that are universal. Regardless of labels, we are able to connect with the characters and understand where they are coming from.

The new movie, Armageddon Time, was written and directed by James Gray. Paul Graff (Banks Repeta), is a young man coming of age in 1980’s Queens. His favorite things to do are drawing and spending time with his Grandpa Aaron (Anthony Hopkins). Coming from a middle-class Jewish family, his parents Esther (Anne Hathaway) and Irving (Jeremy Strong) are doing the best they can.

The story gets going when Paul starts to hang out with Johnny Davis (Jaylin Webb). Johnny is one of the African-American students in his class. Due to racism and other issues, he has already been held back. Bonded by their mutual sense of rebellion and dislike for their teacher, Paul and Johnny become fast friends.

Paul is idealistic and stubborn, but also a little naive. When he is forced to transfer from public school to private school, the economic and societal differences between the boys become evident. The choice he has to make will define the rest of his life: speak up or stay silent.

Gray’s film (which is based on his own life), is half coming of age and half a family drama. It is well-written, well-acted, and absolutely fantastic. Repeta, as our young protagonist, blew me away. This young man was brilliant in the role and truly made me want to go on Paul’s journey with him.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Armageddon Time is presently in theaters.

We Should All Be Paying Attention to the Antisemitism at UC Berkeley

In an ideal world, college (and higher education in general) is an opportunity to spread our wings and see the world beyond what we think it is. But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in the real world, which is far more complicated.

A couple weeks ago, a controversy erupted at UC Berkeley in California. Back in August, nine student groups adopted by-laws in which they agree to not invite speakers who “hold views in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine.” In other words, the campus has certain sections that are judenrein.

First of all, Palestine is not occupied. Second of all, Israel is not an apartheid state. Third of all, they boiled the complex issue of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict into the idea that all Jews support Israel and subjugate Palestinian neighbors. None of this is true.

Recently Noa Tishby visited the campus and tried to get an understanding of what was going on. The video below speaks for itself.

Sarah Silverman responded to this news as perfectly as one can.

I wish that we would see each other as human beings first and then see us via whatever labels we use to identify ourselves. But we don’t. We rush to judgment and make a generic statement about who they are. My fear in all of this is that the students are our future leaders. Who knows where the poison they spread today will take us tomorrow.

P.S. I don’t know about anyone else, but Kyrie Irving’s apology seems a bit half-ass.

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