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These children of Jewish mobsters were kept well shielded from their fathers’ affairs

Lisa Novick Greenberg/John Novick

By BERNIE BELLAN
What’s it like growing up the child of a mobster – and a Jewish mobster to boot?
The idea of stringing together various stories about children of Jewish mobsters came to me as I started to read a terrific new book that was sent to our office, totally unexpectedly.

The title of the book is “The Apple and the Shady Tree”. The author is someone by the name of Lisa Novick Goldberg. The book is available on Amazon in either paperback or Kindle format.
There were a couple of ideas that kept crossing my mind as I read Lisa Novick Goldberg’s book. One was: Are criminals self-isolating during these extraordinary times? After all, they don’t adhere to society’s norms at the best of times. Why would they lower themselves to start following the same rules that should apply to everyone else? What would someone whose livelihood depends on providing others with something that’s illegal to begin with – such as drugs or other contraband, gambling, and prostitution, do when most of us are told to self-isolate?
I worry for those types of people. It must be even more difficult for them to get by than it is for the rest of us. Think Tony Soprano and his psychiatrist.

Secondly, as soon as I started to read this book, I thought to myself: We’ve had stories that are similar in nature written about in the pages of this paper before. In 2014 I wrote a review of a book titled “Davey the Punk”, which was written by a well-known Canadian musician by the name of Bob Bossin – whose father was Dave Bossin (or “Davey the Punk” as he was known to all his friends).
In 2017 Martin Zeilig wrote a fascinating story for us about someone named Al Smiley, who was best friends with Ben “Bugsy” Siegel. Smiley was actually a former Winnipegger and Martin interviewed his daughter, whose name is Luellen Smiley.
As well, in 2015 CBC Radio ran an interview conducted by Anna Maria Tremonti with Sandra Lansky following the publication of Sandra’s memoir of growing up the daughter of Meyer Lansky, who was known as “the brains of the Mob”. Sandra Lansky’s book is titled “Daughter of the King: Growing up in Gangland”. I haven’t actually read that book, but I have listened to the interview a couple of times. It remains one of the greatest interviews I ever heard Anna Maria Tremonti do. (It ranks up there with Jian Ghomeshi’s interview with Billy Bob Thornton as one of the most riveting pieces of radio I’ve ever heard.)
As a matter of fact, I’ve urged the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada to mount an exhibit on Jewish gangsters – in a departure from the standard custom of harkening back to a rose-coloured past that doesn’t shed much light on some of the more unsavoury aspects of Jewish life. Of course, if the JHCWC were actually to mount such an exhibit, whoever would be doing the research for it might not live long enough to see what comes of it.
I’ve also asked the organizers of Limmud whether I can present a talk at Limmud on Jewish mobsters – including many Russian oligarchs, but so far I haven’t been granted permission. Maybe next year I’ll be told to go ahead. There are a number of individuals I know who can provide me with first-hand information, some of whom are subscribers to this paper, yet whose identities must remain a secret.

But, to return to the original focus of this article: What’s it like to grow up the child of a gangster?
Here’s what Luellen Smiley, Bob Bossin, and Lisa Novick Goldberg had to say, in part:

Al Smiley/Luellen Smiley

From Martin Zeilig’s interview with Luellen Smiley: “Some children are silenced. The pretense is protection against people and events more powerful than them. As the daughter of Allen Smiley, associate and friend to Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, I was raised in a family of secrets…
“When I was exposed to the truth by way of a book, I kept the secret, too. I was 13. My parents divorced, and five years later, my mother died. In 1966, I went to live with my father in Hollywood. I was forbidden to talk about our life: ‘Don’t discuss our family business with anyone, and listen very carefully to what I say from now on!’ But one night, he asked me to come into his room and he told me the story of the night Ben was murdered…
“After my father died, I remained silent, to avoid shame, embarrassment and questions. But 10 years later, in 1994, when I turned 40, I cracked the silence. I read every book in print – and out of print – about the Mafia. Allen Smiley was in dozens. He was a Russian Jew, a criminal, Bugsy’s right-hand man, a dope peddler, pimp, a racetrack tout. I held close the memory of a benevolent father, wise counselor, and a man who worshipped me.
“I made a Freedom of Information Act request and obtained his government files. The Immigration and Naturalization Service claimed he was one of the most dangerous criminals in the country. They said he was Benjamin Siegel’s assistant. They said he was poised to take over the rackets in Los Angeles. He didn’t; he sold out his interest in the Flamingo, and he went to Houston to strike oil…
“It seems there is no end to the stories surrounding Ben and Al. I am not looking for closure. I’ve become too attached to the story. To me, he was a benevolent father, a wise counsellor and a man who worshipped me.”

Bob Bossin in front of a family picture, including his father, “Davey the Punk”

Here’s an excerpt from my review of “Davey the Punk”, about Bob Bossin’s father, Dave Bossin: “As well – as he explains during the course of the book, he had to piece together his father’s past – which was kept well-hidden from him as he was growing up, and which largely remained a mystery to him until he was well into his 40s, through a series of interviews he conducted with relatives, friends of his father, and other individuals who happened to have dealings with Davey.”

Finally, we have Lisa Novick Goldberg’s memoir of growing up in a Mob-connected household with her father, whose name was John (or, as he was known to his friends, “Jonny”) Novick. Actually, his real name was “Herbert”, Lisa explains, but his Italian gangster friends thought that Herbert wasn’t the kind of name that a gangster should have, so they told him to change it to Jonny. In another fun aside, Lisa says that her father’s mother couldn’t pronounce the name Herbert anyway; she always called him “Hoibert”! Now that wouldn’t have placed him in good stead with his mostly Italian underworld friends, would it have? Also, since almost every gangster mentioned in this book had a nickname (My favourite was “Johnny Eggs”, because his mother raised chickens on a farm), it’s hard not to look upon these guys –who would slit your throat without hesitation if need be, with a certain fondness.
As with Luellen Smiley and Bob Bossin, Lisa Novick claims she had no idea about her father’s sordid background when she was growing up. She does say that when he was home, which wasn’t very often, he was always on the phone – and she wondered what he was talking about, but you can hardly expect a kid to understand what it is that their father is doing to make a living when he takes great pains to keep it shrouded in mystery.
It wasn’t until Lisa was a young adult that she was able to learn the truth about her father. She was actually summoned to appear before a grand jury in New York when she was only 22 (in 1980). While she denied having any knowledge of her father’s connections to the Mafia (he was actually well connected to the Genovese family – one of the five “families” that make up New York’s Mafia underworld), Lisa admits that, by that time, she was pretty much aware that her father was immersed in a wide range of illegal activities.
John Novick’s ostensibly legitimate business was as the biggest supplier of soft pretzels in New York City, with all the major sports venues being his customers. As well, he had kiosks near subway stations throughout the city. Lisa gives quite a detailed explanation of how money is laundered through what appear to be legitimate businesses, yet in footnotes that she provides throughout the book, she explains that she had to research almost everything she describes by looking at FBI archives and court transcripts, as well as other books and articles about New York’s Mafia underworld.
Yet, even though Lisa did realize her father was earning his income illicitly – for the most part (she does relate a series of hilarious business ventures in which he was involved that all failed), she doesn’t judge him at all harshly. In fact, she admits that she was always much closer to her father than her mother, whom she describes as having a terrible temper and much less gregarious than her extremely popular father.
One other aspect of John Novick’s career as a criminal is that, unlike almost everyone of his Mafia cohorts, he was never indicted and never served any time in jail. Although he comes across as someone who succeeded in making money despite his own inability to properly organize his affairs, apparently he was so popular with almost everyone who was involved in illegal activities that he benefited from his close relationships to the point where he was able to count on the largesse of some of the most vicious criminals in New York City for over 50 years. He also had a fantastic ability to do complex math calculations quickly, which proved invaluable to him as a gambler, which was his favourite pastime.
John Novick died in 2014. He had a myriad of health conditions when he was admitted to hospital one year before his death, principle among them being severe obesity. He weighed over 300 pounds when he was first hospitalized but had shrunk to a mere 150 pounds by the time he died. Reading about his voracious eating habits is quite repelling, although fascinating at the same time. He could devour a four-pound lobster, followed by a streak drowning in butter, Lisa writes, topped off by everything that was on a dessert tray that was brought to his table.

But, what of these mobsters’ children’s connections to their Jewishness? In none of the three cases I’ve cited does being Jewish play much of a role in their childhoods, other than when it comes to food. Lisa Novick says that both her parents were not at all involved in Jewish life. They didn’t attend synagogue nor did they observe any of the Jewish holidays (although she does describe her father’s weird habit of fasting on Yom Kippur by staying in bed and doing nothing but watch television. That was his only nod to Jewish observance, she writes.)

Meyer Lansky/Sylvia Lansky

As far as Sylvia Lansky goes, by the way, considering that her father was probably the most famous Jewish mobster of all time, what I remember best about her interview with Anna Maria Tremonti were some of her anecdotes about meeting famous celebrities. She tells the story of encountering Frank Sinatra in a New York restaurant one time when she was a little girl. Sinatra came over to the table where she was seated with her mother and father, but he accidentally knocked over the ice bucket that held a bottle of champagne directly on to her lap.
Sylvia describes how a look of mortal fear came into Sinatra’s eyes; clearly he thought that Meyer Lansky might order a hit on him right then and there. When Anna Maria asked Sylvia how she felt at that moment, I’ll always remember her answer: “I was cold.”
Sylvia also relates her own torrid love affair with Dean Martin. He could make love six times in one night, she recalls during the interview. Jews and Italians – joined at the hip, and often other places as well.

So – these were all spoiled children of men who made their money illegally – and none of them wondered where all the money was coming from. Is that unusual? I’m not so sure.
It’s one thing to not know what your father does for a living, but it’s another thing to see your house fill up with material goods – as was the case with all four of these mobsters’ children. Wouldn’t you wonder how your father was able to acquire so much “stuff” – and why were all their fathers so secretive about what they did?
I’ve barely mentioned the mothers of the children who grew up with mobster fathers. I suppose one can make a “deal with the devil” fairly easily if need be. There’s a lesson in here somewhere about how people can rationalize their behaviour. Yet, I’m sure you’re just like me in agreeing that reading about the family lives of mobsters – just as it was depicted on “The Sopranos” is noteworthy not for its excitement, but for the extreme pains criminals take to keep their lives as mundane as yours or mine.

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Popularity of Online Casino Games in Canada

In recent years, the popularity of online casino games in Canada has surged, captivating the attention of a diverse audience seeking thrilling entertainment. With the convenience of accessing these games from the comfort of home, Canadians are exploring the vast world of virtual casinos that offer an extensive array of gaming options.

Diverse Selection of Casino Games:

One of the key factors contributing to the widespread appeal of online casino games in Canada is the vast selection available. There are hundreds of top casino games online, covering every genre imaginable. From classic table games like poker and blackjack to immersive slot machines with captivating themes, Canadian players have a plethora of options to choose from.

The Rise of Online Slots:

Among the various casino games, online slots have witnessed a significant surge in popularity. The ease of gameplay and the potential for substantial payouts make slots a preferred choice for both seasoned players and newcomers. With themes ranging from ancient civilisations to popular movies and TV shows, online slots offer a diverse and engaging experience for players of all preferences.

Convenience and Accessibility:

The accessibility of online casino games is a key driver behind their growing popularity in Canada. Players no longer need to travel to a physical casino to experience the thrill of gambling. Instead, they can enjoy their favourite games with just a few clicks on their computer or mobile device. This convenience has opened up the world of online gambling to a broader audience, attracting both seasoned gamblers and those trying their luck for the first time.

Technology Advancements:

Advancements in technology have played a pivotal role in enhancing the online casino gaming experience. High-quality graphics, realistic sound effects, and seamless gameplay contribute to an immersive environment that mirrors the excitement of traditional brick-and-mortar casinos. Additionally, the integration of live dealer games brings an authentic touch to online gaming, allowing players to interact with real dealers in real-time.

Regulatory Environment:

The regulatory environment in Canada has also contributed to the popularity of online casino games. While each province has its own regulations, the overall legal framework allows for a thriving online gambling industry. This has given rise to reputable online casinos that prioritise player safety and adhere to strict industry standards, ensuring a fair and secure gaming environment.

Social Aspect and Community Engagement:

Online casinos in Canada are not just about individual gameplay; they also provide a platform for social interaction. Many online casinos feature chat rooms and community forums where players can connect, share experiences, and discuss strategies. This sense of community adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the gaming experience, making online casinos a social activity beyond the solitary pursuit of winning.

The popularity of online casino games in Canada is undoubtedly on the rise, driven by a combination of diverse gaming options, convenience, technological advancements, and a favourable regulatory environment. With a wide array of top casino games available at their fingertips, Canadians can indulge in the excitement of gambling from the comfort of their homes. As the online casino industry continues to evolve, it’s clear that virtual gaming is here to stay and will likely continue to captivate audiences across the country.

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Features

Life in Israel four months after October seventh

Orly & Solly Dreman

By ORLY DREMAN

(Special to the JP&N) Feb. 1, 2024

In every news broadcast that we hear that “The IDF spokesman is permitted to announce”… then every person in Israel sits down, holds their breath and waits to hear the names of the soldiers fallen in action that day. This causes deep sadness to every family in Israel. For example, I found out the son of my T.V technician was killed and my handyman’s son was seriously injured. Death in Israel is so personal.

Our synagogue recently mourned twenty seven year old Inbar Heiman who was kidnapped by Hamas from the Nova music nature party on October seventh and was murdered in captivity. She was a gifted young woman filled with love and compassion. She was a creative artist that was supposed to enter her senior year at university this academic year. We had prayed and wished that she would return until her family received the tragic news of her death.

When we made personal medical visits to the Hadassah hospital, we often heard helicopters overhead bringing in wounded soldiers from Gaza. In the surgery department we saw a reserve soldier being released after six weeks in the hospital. His wife and newborn baby were with him. The department had a touching farewell gathering with Israeli flags, music and cakes. This is how every soldier who leaves the hospital is treated. More than fourteen thousand civilians and soldiers were hospitalized since October seventh with most of the injuries being in the hands and legs, burns, head and eye injuries.

We seldom are in the mood to go to a restaurant these days, but if we do, such outings are accompanied by guilt feelings. Is it right to go when our people are suffering?- the hostages are starving. We all wear the metal disc that says “Bring Them Home now- Our hearts are captured in Gaza”. They occupy our thoughts pervasively. Some of the hostages have suffered untreated gunshot wounds and the hygiene conditions are poor, many of them not showering for four months, sitting thirty meters under the ground in dark tunnels, with no electricity and suffering from extreme malnutrition. Some of them have diseases like Celiac, Asthma, Colitis, Diabetes, Fibromialgia, heart diseases and allergies. They are getting no medications and time is running out for them. Twenty five of them have already perished. What sort of civil society will we be if we abandon them?

Whole families are recruited for combat duty in different areas of the country. It might be a brother and a sister fighting in Gaza or a father in Judea and Samaria while another brother is fighting on the Lebanese border. If you ask soldiers who have lost their siblings in combat if they wish to go back to fight after the shiva, they do not hesitate, even though it is so hard on the parents. This demonstrates the dedication of Israeli citizens and their wish to complete the task of exterminating the Hamas, while at the same time knowing their family member did not die in vain. The grief is intergenerational and we are even acquainted with grandparents whose grandchildren are in combat and they are given the opportunity to go to workshops that help them with their anxiety.

In a Knesset Committee it was recently reported That many survivors from the Nova party have taken their own lives. Others continue to experience the trauma of the horrific events. They cannot sleep nor eat. Many were sexually abused and even though they were not murdered they continue to experience the pain- the sights, voices- cries for help and the fear. They are in a sense also fighters who awaken to a new existence everyday and continue to fight for their existence.

At the military cemeteries there is one funeral process after another and the families are asked to leave the site to make room to prepare for the next funeral. Wounded soldiers arrive in ambulances, on hospital beds or wheelchairs in order to eulogize their fallen comrades.

The reservists who return home after months of combat are having troubles adjusting because this war, like the War of Independence, is very meaningful. It is the most justified war our homeland has encountered. Upon their return there is a big downfall in physical and mental energy. A stranger cannot understand this. These soldiers were disconnected from normal civilian routine for a long time and they had difficult and intimate experiences with their combat mates. They have lost friends and did not have time to mourn. They must release the stress they were exposed to. They are back in body but not always in spirit. They also might be recruited again in the near future to the southern or the northern front, the war is not over. Many men who were injured worry about their future fertility and sexual functioning.

They entertain such existential thoughts as would it be better that I am killed in action before I have children and leave no descendants, or losing my life and leaving behind orphans. Dozens of children remain orphaned from both parents. They also have witnessed their family members being murdered and their homes burned down. Years ago, Solly treated and did a follow up on a family where both parents were murdered in a terrorist attack. Even though the children were adopted by loving relatives they suffered from survivor guilt and this expressed itself in such phenomena as dropping out of school, turning into juvenile delinquents and having trouble in intimate relations.

The evacuees from the south and the north are dispersed in hundreds of hotels in the center of the country. Hence, they have no permanent home, have no privacy and many have no work, nothing to do for months on end and experience feelings of powerlessness. Some pupils are not capable of returning to their temporary schools because of anxieties, depression and fear. Some teenagers have turned to drugs and alcohol which increases violence and vandalism. For them school is experienced as a waste of time. Their friends were murdered, some still have relatives in captivity and everything is falling apart. They also experience sleep disruptions and are in no mood to study. For them life is a living hell. Some families are moved from city to city several times. The children do not have friends in the new locations and they feel lonely and express a lack of social support.

In the realm of parenting many mothers even those who were NOT directly exposed to the dramatic events reported that their children cry more (eighty three percent). Others say the children have difficulties sleeping (seventy three percent), have concentration problems (fifty four percent) and many children are developing eating disorders. In sixty percent the anxiety of the children is so high it hurts functioning. For example, they are often afraid to leave the house. Other disturbances were reported such as bed-wetting, insisting on sleeping with their parents and acts of anger and aggression.

We, as Israelis are also concerned with our Jewish brethren who are experiencing thousands of antisemitic incidents, higher than the number of all incidents in the last decade. There are many Jews in the diaspora who are considering emigration to Israel after experiencing antisemitic events such as seeing their synagogue, Hebrew school, kosher butcher and other Jewish businesses being stoned and burned. For them Israel is their safest haven.

On a more optimistic note the Jewish people have prevailed over thousands of years despite terrible events. In spite of the uncertainty not everything is lost. We are united and strong. The soldiers are full of motivation and good values. I firmly believe that if we are patient and persist, the Jewish people and the state of Israel will prevail.

Orly Dreman is a 10th generation Israeli. Her cousin, Ruvi Rivlin, was a former president of Israel. Orly’s father was a diplomat who served both in North America and in Europe.
By profession Orly is an English teacher. She has dealt with children suffering from ADD.
Since childhood, Orly has been involved in voluntary work with the disabled, the challenged, new immigrants, the elderly and others. 

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Features

The Critical Job Roles in Online Business

More companies than ever are embracing remote working. As of 2023, around 16% of businesses have a fully remote working model, with many more adopting a hybrid one. All of this should come as welcome news to anyone looking for a better work-life balance. As well as saying goodbye to grueling commutes, remote employees can embrace lucrative salary packages, generous benefits, and more. Ready to reap the benefits of online work yourself? Below are just a handful of remote working opportunities to consider.

Video Game and Casino Platform Development

Whether it’s creating Canadian online slots for real money casinos or an open-world epic, great games need talented developers. Thankfully, this is one sector where the typical rules of the 9-5 don’t apply. In the US, an experienced game developer can expect to take home around $103,000 annually. For a midweight casino games developer, a starting salary of around $65,000 is fairly respectable.

Software Engineering

If you have a background in software engineering, you’re in luck. Currently, it’s one of the highest-paid online roles around, with an average salary of $108,000. There’s no one size-fits-all remit for a software engineer, but typical roles include designing applications, testing, and creating system upgrades.

UX Design

User experience is becoming increasingly important as companies strive to make their digital products more accessible. Unsurprisingly, there’s a high demand for user experience designers, with many positions now advertised as remote-first roles. You’ll need to have sufficient software and development experience to excel here. What’s more, you’ll need to work closely with clients to meet the needs of the consumer. If you think you could do well in a role like this, expect an annual salary in the region of $97,000.

Web Design

One role you’ll never struggle to find is that of a web designer. It’s a pretty broad field, so expect a lot of disparity when it comes to job remits and starting salaries. At a minimum, a web designer worth their salt should be able to create accessible websites for a wide range of clients. You’ll also need to be familiar with coding languages and testing. Less experienced web designers can expect to command a starting salary of around $43,000. If you’ve been working professionally for more than a few years and have a solid portfolio to back you up, you can easily negotiate twice that amount.

Entry-Level Online Roles

For digital natives, remote working will come as second nature. Don’t have the skills to land a web designer or developer job? Not to worry. There are an increasing number of entry-level remote roles out there.

Customer service roles are readily available, with positions to cater to all experience levels. At the bottom rung of the ladder, you might be tasked with making sales calls or resolving complaints from customers. A customer service agent can comfortably make around $40-50,000 a year. If you operate on a commission basis or can take advantage of a generous bonus scheme, you could easily double this annually.

Is Remote Working Here To Stay?

Even as many businesses encourage workers back to the office, there’s an deniable upward trend in the number of remote and hybrid-only roles on the job market. Video conferencing technology and collaboration tools are making it easier than ever for remote teams to remain connected. Meanwhile, company executives are finding it hard to argue with significantly reduced overheads and increased productivity.

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