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March 30, 1984 - Image 60

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-03-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

60 Friday, March 30, 1984

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Kosher Nostra

W.C.
Trojan

The following 4 questions

WHY SEDERAMA 84?
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BY STEVE TEAMKIN

Special to The Jewish News

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When Temple Beth Shalom of
Lakeville, Long Island, recently
named Shlomo Weinstein as its new
head rabbi, it ended a power struggle
between two families that had lasted
nearly seventy years. Weinstein
(known to his enemies as "The Dyb-
buk") heads one of the nation's most
powerful religious sects, with contacts
in nearly every major congregation in
the United States. His chief competi-
tion for the job was Chemya ("The
Mashgiach") Mandelbaum, a noted
talmudic scholar who took his defeat
rather philosophically: "He should
only have his books audited."

Humorous look at
"organized" religion

The history of the Weinstein-
Mandelbaum hostilities spans two
continents and three generations and
began in a small town outside of Kiev
in 1910. Moshe ("The Goniff') Weins-
tein, a wealthy businessman, cleverly
maneuvered control of the town's Con-
servative synagogue away from Isaac
("The Mohel") Golowitz and im-
mediately named his son Avram as
cantor. (Avram, a likable boy; im-
mediately took to the job. His only
drawback was his inability to read
Hebrew.) Outraged, Golowitz took his
case to the town elders. They ruled
that Avram was not only a lousy can-
tor, but that his wife knew nothing
about cooking blintzes.
Decimated by this decision,
Weinstein quietly packed his belong-
ings and moved his whole family to
America.
Golowitz, meanwhile, used his
new-found power as leader of the vil-
lage to move his relatives into all the
key positions in the town's thriving
knish business.
Word of this soon reached Nicolai
("The Tsar") Romanoff, who decided a
pogrom was in order to teach Golowitz
a lesson. Unfortunately, this resulted
in a scheduling conflict with the Rus-
sian Revolution, so the pogrom had to
be postponed. Golowitz seized this
opportunity to flee across the border to
Rotterdam, where he and his family
boarded the first boat to the Free
World.
It was during this voyage that
Golowitz's daughter, Esther, met and
fell in love with Myron Mandelbaum, a
brilliant young rabbinical student
whose sermon, "Man's Expulsion from
Eden: How It Affected Insurance
Rates," was so overpowering that it
instantly swept her off her feet. The
elder Golowitz had a slightly different
view of Mandelbaum — he thought
Mandelbaum was an idiot. But he
grudgingly gave permission for the
two youngsters to marry and the
ceremony was performed before the
ship reached New York.
That winter, the family — which,
by then, consisted of Golowitz, his
wife, Mandelbaum, Esther and their
newborn son, Moses — found itself
ensconced in a luxurious one-room
walk-down apartment in a tenement
on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The
ambitious Golowitz wasted no time es-
tablishing a power base in the com-

munity similar to the one he had in the
old country. His first move was to buy
into Heschel ("The Bialy King")
Rabinowitz's chain of bakeries. Be-
fore long, Golowitz controlled not only
most of lower Manhattan's bagels, but
also its onion rolls and danish, too.
With his profits, Golowitz bought
prestigious front row seats in the syn-
agogue. By 1929, he had such tight
control of the New York territory that
there wasn't a kidush in Manhattan he
wasn't invited to.
In the meantime, the Weinsteins
had established a power base of their
own: controlling the movement of reli-
gious artifacts in Brooklyn, Queens
and Staten Island. (Originally, the
notorious Chomsky family controlled
Queens, but a war was averted when
Gershon Chomsky moved his family's
operations to Las Vegas, where it
eventually gained a strangehold on all
of that town's prayer shawls.)
By 1925, Avram Weinstein had
succeeded his ailing father as head of
the family and set his eye on expand-
ing into lower Manhattan. This, of
course, would mean a renewal of hos-
tilities between the two families that
had warred 25 years earlier in Russia.
A peace conference was hastily
arranged. A council of the nation's
most powerful rabbis (also known as
"The Minyan of Ten") convened and
ordered the Golowitzes and Weins-
teins to appear before them to air their
grievances. Weinstein went first and
complained that Golowitz was prepar-
ing to move into the mid-town. area,
previously considered no one's terri-
tory by mutual agreement. Golowitz
countercharged that the Weinsteins
held a monopoly on mezuzas and it
wasn't fair that he couldn't share in
the profits.
After much deliberation, Rabbi
Mordecai ("The Boss of All Bosses")
Chemelstein handed down the follow-
ing edict: both families would stay out
of Times Square. In addition, Golowitz
could share in Weinstein's profits, but
only if he stopped spreading rumors
that Mrs. Weinstein didn't keep
kosher. While this raised eyebrows
and was considered a victory for the
Weins-teins, Golowitz reluctantly
agreed and peace was temporarily re-
stored.
The 1930s were a period of rela-
tive calm, with both families setting
about to quietly strengthen their re-
serves. Control of the Golowitz family
passed on to Golowitz's son-in-law,
Myron, who was more of a scholar than
a businessman. (His book Pogroms:
Persecution or Practical Jokes?, caused
such a controversy that Mandelbaum
was subpoenaed to appear before a Se-
nate subcommittee, which was star-
tled to learn that once, as a boy, he had
pleaded the fifth when asked the four
kashas.)
The Weinstein empire also con-
tinued to grow as its operations spread
along the East Coast. Avram, who
never forgot his humiliation at the
hands of the Golowitzes in Russia,
ruled with an iron fist. In the mean-
time, his son, Sammy Weinstein
(a.k.a. "Kid Schnorrer"), was acquir-
ing quite a reputation as a playboy. He
would frequently stay out until all
hours of the night and, on more than

Continued on. Page 63

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