SARATOGA SPRINGS– The Saratoga Jewish Cultural Festival (SJCF) will present a Zoom panel discussion of the film “Lansky” on Monday, Aug. 14, at 7 p.m.
“Lansky” is a 2021 American biographical crime drama about the gangster Meyer Lansky, written and directed by Eytan Rockaway. It stars Harvey Keitel and Sam Worthington. The film presents Lansky as an old man telling his story to a down and out journalist looking for a break on a big story.
Lansky was known as the American Mafia’s accountant and was notorious for operating criminal rackets in Miami, Las Vegas and Cuba.
According to organizers of the discussion program, he was known for using his brains more than violence, but although a gun was rarely in his hand, he was responsible for the murders of those who got in the way of his business.
Although an active criminal for more than a half-century, Lansky avoided major prison time, serving only a few months on a gambling charge, which, by the way, occurred in Saratoga. He died from cancer at 80.
Many films avoid much exploration of their characters’ Jewish identity; however, this film presents the importance of Jewishness to Lansky’s story.
“Lansky, born in Russia in 1902, came to the U.S. as a child in 1911,” said Phyllis Wang, coordinator of the Saratoga Jewish Cultural Festival, “and became the most famous Jewish gangster of all time while also a father, friend, genius, criminal, and patriot…a complicated man.”
In the run-up to World War II, the film shows him brawling with Nazi sympathizers from the German-American bund and saying kaddish in a synagogue. Lansky promised aid and helped the new State of Israel, sending money during its critical early years, although he seemed to become cynical when Israel deported him back to the U.S. after he immigrated there to avoid criminal prosecution in the U.S.