The Jewish "Mafia"

This 1964 photo is of my father (Irving, seated) and one of his most important customers (also Irving, standing). They were important figures in the produce business in Minneapolis. Both families were fairly assimilated, but proudly Jewish. Both men were the children of immigrants, in both cases from White Russia (Belarus).

Yet frequently as a child, I'd hear them talking about running the fruit business in Minneapolis, casting themselves literally in the role of two immigrant Mafiosi, my father even scrawling as much on this photo. Perhaps this reflects the fact that my father's most important competitor in those days was the Joe DeLisi Fruit Company--and I was never allowed to forget that Mr. DeLisi was Italian, and we were Jewish.

Was my father's quick caption on this photo aspirational? derisive? humorous? Or maybe a touch of all three. But I think it is an interesting reflection on his own understanding of his heritage as a member of an immigrant community.

Place(s): Minneapolis, Italy
Year: 1895

– Roger Brooks

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant