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The Kosher Capones: A History of Chicago's Jewish Gangsters

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The Kosher Capones tells the fascinating story of Chicago's Jewish gangsters from Prohibition into the 1980s. Author Joe Kraus traces these gangsters through the lives, criminal careers, and conflicts of Benjamin "Zuckie the Bookie" Zuckerman, last of the independent West Side Jewish bosses, and Lenny Patrick, eventual head of the Syndicate's "Jewish wing."

These two men linked the early Jewish gangsters of the neighborhoods of Maxwell Street and Lawndale to the notorious Chicago Outfit that emerged from Al Capone's criminal confederation. Focusing on the murder of Zuckerman by Patrick, Kraus introduces us to the different models of organized crime they represented, a raft of largely forgotten Jewish gangsters, and the changing nature of Chicago's political corruption. Hard-to-believe anecdotes of corrupt politicians, seasoned killers, and in-over-their-heads criminal operators spotlight the magnitude and importance of Jewish gangsters to the story of Windy City mob rule.

With an eye for the dramatic, The Kosher Capones takes us deep inside a hidden society and offers glimpses of the men who ran the Jewish criminal community in Chicago for more than sixty years.

222 pages, Kindle Edition

Published October 15, 2019

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Joe Kraus

7 books95 followers

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5 stars
11 (13%)
4 stars
24 (30%)
3 stars
36 (45%)
2 stars
7 (8%)
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1 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews
14 reviews
January 28, 2020
A highly entertaining read

I found the book to be extremely interesting and very informative. it is clear that the author did an extraordinary amount of research ; the book provides a thoughtful,insightful and carefully orchestrated compilation of the lives and criminality of many persons and generations of Jewish gangsters in Chicago. I extend congratulations to Joe Kraus on his exceptional work.
Profile Image for L.D. Barnes.
46 reviews5 followers
December 27, 2019
Living on Chicago's west side most of my life, I knew from my childhood that Lawndale was once a Jewish neighborhood, but I didn't know about the men that ran things in its heyday. Joe Kraus gave me keys to some of the underground world that was around me while showing me that the anti-semetic feelings did work against these men who should have been discussed with all the other notorious Chicagoans.

This book may seem repeative, but because the events and stories are so interconnected the material bears repeating. I enjoyed it and have put it in my collection of inspirations for writing historical fictional gansters.
Profile Image for Steve.
630 reviews2 followers
September 30, 2020
Incredibly badly written, with endless repetition and a narrative that jumps around constantly. Nevertheless, it's really great fun for someone who has lived in the Chicago area for more than 50 years now. I took the tour of Jewish Lawndale and remember many of the trials and murders reported here (over and over and over).
Profile Image for catechism.
1,184 reviews21 followers
April 28, 2021
I get that for a lot of reasons, this is a difficult story to tell, but Kraus' attempt didn't really work for me. There was a lot of good stuff in here but the structure made it incredibly difficult to make any sense of.
Profile Image for Margaret Klein.
Author 4 books14 followers
May 31, 2021
This book traces the history of Jewish gangsters (no not an oxymoron) from Prohibition through the 1980s. In the wake of Al Capone's murder, the city was carved up amongst many involved in liquor, restaurants, gambling, racketeering and loan sharking. Some of it was Jewish. From Maxwell Street to Lawndale, then the near northside. From Chicago to Cuba, Miami and Vegas, Jewish gangsters had their fingers every where. The question often comes up--is this good for the Jews or bad for the Jews. This is bad for the Jews, but clearly we Jews were tougher than some make us out. I was impressed with the overlap between organized crime, the police and the politicians. Not a history I know well and I drive on streets named for famous people--Cicero, Touhy, Thompson, Cermak--all in the book as real living people. Having lived in Evanston for 6 years and my husband having spent all of his youth in Hyde Park, we were not aware of some of this history. Nonetheless the books was organized in a frustrating way so it was hard to follow the chronology. Overall, a missed opportunity and I am not sure I would recommend it. I can't figure out why I would be interested in these real life, dangerous, murderous characters.
Profile Image for Tom Barber.
97 reviews
September 5, 2021
I found this book quite captivating. Honestly, it took me a while to get into it (I’m not a Chicagoan), but gradually the names and structure of the mafia (Jewish and otherwise) in Chicago started to come together for me.
Joe Kraus did an exhaustive amount of research and that shows. The very concept of organized crime seems almost fictional to me and at times it is difficult to imagine just what these hoodlums did and got away with. Of course, there were very tight links between the mafia and Chicago government officials and Kraus explains that quite well. In fact, he includes some of the city commissioners in the “list” of Chicago’s Jewish criminals, which is entirely appropriate.
Included in the book are some incredible stories of brazen acts by the mobsters. Often these acts were not officially punished, but were nonetheless reported by the Chicago Tribune and/or other local newspapers. Fortunately for us, there were some very courageous journalists covering organized crime in Chicago over the years.
If you are a Chicagoan or someone with an interest in organized crime in the U.S. (and particularly under documented aspects of its history), I recommend this book!
Profile Image for Matias Myllyrinne.
108 reviews2 followers
January 9, 2021
The book has potential and its moments. However too often you get a list of names and dates thrown at you with little context, background or motive. The mobsters themselves are too often just paper thin characters in a cavalcade of history. A lost opportunity to cover an interesting topic.
Profile Image for York.
119 reviews2 followers
March 10, 2023
I liked the nonlinear format here--I think going by theme/specific gangster made sense, and he did tie it all up with Patrick. Also it was wonderfully readable without turning into bad crime fiction, which is a real problem with books on organized crime.
412 reviews2 followers
November 22, 2022
This book told the true stories of the Jewish mobsters from Chicago. It was complete and thorough. But the stories were not riveting when compared to other gangster histories.
Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews

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