Through hard work, intelligence, and talent, Jewish Americans pulled themselves out of the worst slums in America and up to the top of the American economy in professions ranging from the Law to Entertainment to Medicine and Science. Jews have also been some of America’s most powerful, deadly, and interesting Gangsters.
Born Arthur Flegenheimer in 1902 to German Jewish parents, he dropped out of school in the 8th grade, started robbing street corner dice games, and was sent to juvenile prison at age 17 for burglary. Released from jail in late 1920 he started working for Schultz trucking company, took up the name Dutch Schultz, and jumped headfirst into the lucrative world of bootlegging beer in the Bronx, becoming known for his brutality and penchant for murder.
Arthur Flegenheimer, aka Dutch Schultz, was the most powerful non-Italian left in Organized crime after Prohibition and his name still ranks high on the list of most infamous gangsters of any race, color, or creed over 80 years after his murder.
Herbie Sperling was one of the biggest heroin dealers of the 1960’s and early 70’s on the entire East Coast. He helped moved hundreds, or maybe thousands of kilos of heroin from the Italian Mafia and their so called French Connection to to the top Black and Latin dealers in New York.
Herbie Sperling. “Mr. Untouchable” told Sperling he wanted to setup a trade of heroin for cocaine in the free world. Sperling enlisted his son Nicholas, who was nabbed by Feds and joined his father in Federal Prison. In 1991 Sperling popped up being interviewed in a documentary about Lewisburg and he had a lot to say about Leroy “Nicky” Barnes.
Herbie Sperling is still alive after over 40 years in federal prison, doing his time in a maximize security medical facility. Herbie Sperling might have been the last of the Jewish tough guy street level Gangsters.
The Purple Gang
Purple Gang hailing from Detroit, the Purple Gang was the only major organized crime group with all-Jewish leadership during the Prohibition Era. They got their name from the Jewish neighbors who said they reminded them of spoiled meat, Purple. While there were many very, very powerful Jewish Gangsters on the East Coas/t and in Chicago, they were allied with non-Jews, mainly the Italians, but in Detroit, the Purple Gang was were the most powerful gangsters during the 1920’s and were the key suppliers of bootleg whiskey to America’s Gangster #1- Al Capone. The Detroit police pinned 500 murders on them and during their reign, Detroit had actually had a higher murder rate than New York and Chicago.
The Jewish Purple Gang was one of the key characters in the criminal history of Detroit, one of America’s most criminal cities.