Tough Jews: Fathers, Sons, and Gangster Dreams
By: Rich Cohen
Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (April 20, 1999)
Tough Jews is a book about just that – Jewish American gangsters. It’s a book about the children of immigrant Jews. That first generation that grew up as Americans. They came to prominence in NYC during the 1930’s and 40’s and became known as Murder Inc. Cohen, like in so many of his other books, tells a story that touches him in some way. He grew up on their stories. After all, Cohen’s great-grandmother frequently served the entire crew in her family’s diner. Their presence might have made a few people nervous. But they always tipped well.
Two of my favorite quotes:
A breed of such men thrive in Los Angeles, brokers, lawyers, entertainers, entertaining lawyers, promoters, moguls, former furriers, distributors, importers, exporters, self-promoters, men of leisure. They fled Brooklyn thirty-five, forty years ago and have shed as many outward signs of their heritage as would be shed, yet still retain something of the old world, a final, fleeting glimpse of what their fathers must have been. Their faces are concentrated, their talk full of warnings, premonitions of things to come, of time repeating itself, of good men stripped of all worldly goods and left to fight again with nothing but instinct.
When my father left the East, he lost touch with most of his Brooklyn friends. It was part of being an adult, I suppose, of being a father, a husband. A person can lead only so many lives.