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Rothstein, Arnold


ROTHSTEIN, ARNOLD ("A.R.," "The Brain," "The Fixer"; 1882–1928), U.S. gangster and criminal mastermind, credited with developing the "numbers" racket, centralizing illegal racetrack bookmaking, fixing the 1919 baseball World Series, and developing 20th-century U.S. organized crime during the Prohibition Era. Rothstein was the second of five children born in Manhattan to Esther and Abraham. Abraham, known as "Abe the Just," was a board member of a major Jewish hospital, and was often asked to mediate community and business disputes. Rothstein was jealous of older brother Harry – a pious young man who wanted to become a rabbi – and rejected Jewish tradition in opposition to him. Rothstein began gambling, shooting pool, and lending money illegally at usurious interest rates ("loan-sharking") in his teens. When Rothstein married a Catholic showgirl in Saratoga, New York, his father sat shiva for him, and later forbade him to go to synagogue with his brothers to pray for their dying mother. Nonetheless, Rothstein was aware of his Jewishness, used it during his criminal career, and was buried in a Jewish cemetery. Rothstein was heavily involved as a financier or organizer of virtually every U.S. major criminal activity of the early 20th century: gambling, stock market swindles, "rum running" during Prohibition, and illegal drugs. He was a liaison between the crooked Tammany Hall organization that controlled New York City politics for more than a generation and the criminal community. He was a partner of the first generation of U.S. Jewish gangsters, including Irving Wexler (Waxey Gordon), and mentored a generation of future gangsters, including Meyer *Lansky, Charles Lucania (Lucky Luciano), and Louis (Lepke) *Buchalter. Rothstein was involved in but never convicted of fixing the results of the 1919 World Series, as was his alleged bag man, Abe *Attell. Rothstein died of a gunshot wound in 1928 in a shooting that may have been motivated by an unpaid gambling debt but has never been fully explained, and no one was ever convicted for the murder. Rothstein was the inspiration for Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby and Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls.

[Alan D. Abbey (2nd ed.)]

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