My latest presentation on Jewish Tough Guys: Boxers and Gangsters as delivered at the JCC of Ann Arbor February 14th, 2018. As always, I wore a special t-shirt for the occasion.
The presentation covers the period between World War I and World War II, when Jews were a dominant group in boxing, producing famous (or infamous) world champions like Max Baer, as well as boxers with memorable names including Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom (nicknamed by author Damon Runyon), Jewey Smith, Ruby Goldstein (“the Jewel of the Ghetto”), King Levinsky (born Harry Krakow) and more. Many of the boxers had ties to organized crime figures such as Rothstein, Lansky, Moses Annenberg, The Purple Gang in Detroit and most famously Murder Inc.
This was an era when Jews were ostracized and lived in ghetto communities such as the Lower East Side or the Brownsville section of Brooklyn where opportunity was limited and Jews had to be tough to survive.
This topic speaks not only to the Jewish experience but to the experience of all immigrant groups in America and has implications for today’s minority groups.
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