Frank Sinatra Saves the Jews


Frank Sinatra and the Jews


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Frank Sinatra, Savior of the Jews

By Ronald Pies

For Part 1, go to Page One

From the group sitting next to us, we heard the first insult directed specifically at my father. "Hey, Pinsky!" a portly man with thick, black horn-rim glasses shouted, "Aricchi Du Porcu!" This was followed by gales of laughter from the surrounding tables.

Even Morrie, who prided himself on his linguistic skills, just shrugged his shoulders at these Sicilian expletives, but there was no mistaking their tone. Soon the rumblings escalated into that cliché of protest you see in prison movies: the patrons began banging their silverware on the table.

"Jake," my mother said in a quavering voice, "I don't want the kids here for this. Let's go."

My father said nothing, but immediately nodded to us in affirmation. As we shuffled out of the dining room to hoots and catcalls, Tony Marchese suddenly blocked my father's way.

"Pinsky, you little piseddu!" he hissed, only inches from my father's face, "I loan you fifty grand to save your goddamn furniture store, and this is what you do to me? I'm ruined! Who the hell did you deal with, anyway?"

My father could barely expel enough air to speak, but managed the words, "George Jacobs. I had it all arranged with Jacobs."

Marchese snorted. "You arrange a gig with that colored shoe-shine boy Sinatra keeps around? Whaddya you, stunata? Get the hell out of here!"

By this time, my mother had hustled my brother, my sister and me into the marble foyer that led to the main exit. My father quickly caught up with us, grabbed our coats without bothering to tip the irritated young lady in the coat-check room, and led us out into the freezing night. The parking lot was covered with a treacherous glaze of ice, and our car already had an inch of heavy, wet snow on it. As my father shooed us all in, scraping frantically at the windshield, a noisy throng began to mill around us. Again, the taunts and insults flew.

"Hey, Pinsky, you couldn't organize a belch at a spaghetti supper!"

"Pinsky, you run a show about as good as you run that furniture store!"

The first snowball hit my sister's window and disintegrated harmlessly. The second projectile—evidently, wet snow packed around a large rock--shattered the rear window on the driver's side of our car, and nearly struck my brother in the head. Thankfully, he had bent to tie his shoe just as glass fragments exploded above him.

I guess I always pictured Frank Sinatra in a red Cadillac Coupe de Ville—maybe a "stretch" version of the 1960 model, which still had those huge, swept-back tailfins. So in the midst of all this chaos, I hardly noticed the rather subdued, black Imperial sedan that was gingerly inching its way into the crowd, its entry punctuated by short, sharp horn blasts. As the sedan approached our car, the driver's window hummed down slowly, and a distinguished-looking black man gazed out at the melee.

"What in the name of …Jake? Jake Pinsky! Is that you, brother?" The voice was a rich baritone, imbued with the twang of rural Louisiana.

My father was so stunned, he did not register that the man he had corresponded with so assiduously over the past month—George Jacobs—was only about five feet away from him, smiling broadly; and that Jacobs' boss, Old Blue Eyes, was nearly as close. By now, the ugly-minded crowd outside Tony's Roman Room had not only calmed down—it had nearly fallen silent.

The back window of the big Imperial rolled down, and a thin, rather haggard-looking figure leaned his head out. The voice was New Jersey honey, with a whiskey chaser. "Plane got caught in the goddamn snowstorm, folks. Hey, pal—if you're Jake, you did a good job. Say hi to Tony, will ya? And tell him I'm sorry—got a big bash in New York in three hours. Let's get outta here, George."

Jacobs frowned at this, and I thought I detected a look of embarrassment on his weathered face, as he glanced over at my father. The Imperial's windows rolled up, and the big sedan eased its way out of the parking lot.

As the crowd dispersed, there followed a few murmurs of "Sorry, Jake," and "It wasn't your fault," and "Hey, you heard Sinatra, leave Pinsky alone." My father—whose face had looked like a blanched grape a few minutes earlier—now wore the beatific expression of a man who had just been blessed by the God of his Fathers.

As we drove home, my brother—who liked to put things in a historical context—turned to me and said, "Francis Albert Sinatra, Savior of the Jews."

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from the January 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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