The gang members were the children of immigrants from eastern Europe, primarily Russia and Poland, who had come to the United States in the great immigration wave from 1881 to 1914. The gang of boys were led by four brothers: Abe, Joe, Raymond and (Isadore) Izzy Bernstein, who had emigrated to Detroit from New York.
They started off as petty thieves and shakedown artists, soon progressing to the more lucrative areas of crime such as armed robbery, extortion, and hijacking[disambiguation needed] under the tutelage of older neighborhood gangsters (Charles Leiter and Henry Shorr). They soon gained notoriety for their operations and savagery, and began to import gangsters from other American cities to work as "muscle" for the gang.
The Purples soon became hijackers and gained a reputation for stealing the booze cargoes of the older and more established gangs.As their reputation of "terror" grew people began to fear them; Al Capone was against expanding his rackets in Detroit and began a business accommodation with the Purples in order to prevent a bloody war.
For several years, the Purples managed the prosperous business of supplying Canadian whisky, Old Log Cabin, to the Capone organization in Chicago.
The Purples were involved in various criminal enterprises. They were also involved in kidnapping other gangsters for ransom, which had become very popular during this era. They were reportedly suspected by the FBI to have been involved with the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.And then there was Sammy “The Mustache” Norber, an associate of the Purple Gang.
Naomi Sandweiss wrote about her husband's Great Uncle Sam for Tablet Magazine, and now presents her personal story of criminal Jews in her upcoming class at A Taste of Honey. Naomi says:
From Meyer Lansky to Bernie Madoff, some Jewish Americans followed illegal paths to the American dream. Meet Jewish gangsters, outlaws and mobsters. Consider the historical / social context of American Jews who pursued criminal careers.
A Taste of Honey has 19 more very interesting classes to choose from ....
Plus author Judith Fein!
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