KOLLEK, TEDDY. (1911-2007). Six-term Jerusalem mayor, known as “the greatest builder of Jerusalem since Herod.” TLS. (“Teddy Kollek”). 1p. 4to. Jerusalem, February 12, 1970. On his official stationery headed with a blind-embossed seal. To Acting District Commissioner of Jerusalem RAPHAEL “RAFI” LEVY (1924? -?). In Hebrew with translation.

“I was asked by my friend, Mr. Fred Pomerantz from the United States, to try and help two of his friends, Maurice Schmertzler and Frank Ritter - get a visa to enter Israel.

As I was told, the two were at the time running a gambling business in the Bahamas, and were consequently charged by the US federal authorities.

Before returning to the United States, they stayed in Israel for about six months, starting in July 1968, even without having American passports. They were forced to return to the U.S. due to Mrs. Schmertzler’s illness, and when they arrived they were charged by the authorities and sentenced to six months in prison each. After serving their sentences, they received American passports and visited various countries.

Last summer, while touring Europe, Frank Ritter traveled with his daughter and son-in-law to Lod, and when he arrived he was told he could not enter Israel.

Needless to mention the importance of the issue for them as warm and good people and Jews. It seems to me that after they have served their sentence in their country, received passports by the American authorities and visited other countries, there is no longer any impediment to delaying them from visiting Israel, and I would be very grateful if you could sort out this matter and inform me…”

Born in Budapest and named for Theodor Herzl, Kollek grew up in Vienna, steeped in Zionist ideology. Immigrating to Palestine in 1935, he helped found the Kibbutz Ein Gev and in 1942 he became the Jewish Agency's deputy head of intelligence, helping Britain’s MI5 fight the right-wing underground Irgun and Lehi (Stern Gang). Following the birth of the state of Israel, Kollek served as an aide to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, prior to his election as mayor of Jerusalem in 1965. Over the course of 28 years, Kollek promoted coexistence with the Arab population and helped transform Jerusalem into a modern city, founding numerous cultural institutions and earning the nickname “the greatest builder of Jerusalem since Herod.”

Born in Hebron of Arab ancestry, Levy served in the Haganah during the 1940s and, later, took a position with the Israeli Ministry of the Interior. “After the 1967 War, Levy was able to use the relationships and coalitions he fostered throughout his career at the border to assume the position of District Commissioner or mutasarrifate of Jerusalem—a position that was created for him to symbolize continuity between the Ottoman, British, and Jordanian domination to the Israeli one. As mutasarrifate, Levy gained immense power by balancing the demands of his superiors with the needs of the population he partly ruled and partly supposedly represented. He juggled this balance by maintaining personal relationships and coalitions with Arab notables, Christian Church Patriarchs, Islamic leaders, and economically sound individuals and simultaneously serving the needs of the Israeli government, especially the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Interior and the Mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek,” (“The Surreptitious History of Raphael Levy: The rise of the Arab Jewish Notables,” Natan Odenheimer, Brandeis University, https://bir.brandeis.edu/bitstream/handle/10192/30615/OdenheimerThesis2015.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y). However, in 1986, Levy was “charged with a string of offenses including blackmail and smuggling gold from Jordan… [and] accused of influencing witnesses in criminal trials, issuing threats, accepting bribes and trying to bribe others. Most of the offenses of which he [was] accused are alleged to involve West Bank Palestinians,” (Los Angeles Times, December 25, 1986).

Our letter regards two Jewish-American racketeers, Morris Schmertzler (alias Max Courtney) and Frank Ritter (alias Red Reed) associates of the infamous gangsters Dutch Schultz and Meyer Lansky, who were involved in illegal gambling in Canada, the United States and the Bahamas before their arrest and imprisonment in the late 1960s. In his December 1971 “Washington Merry-Go-Round” syndicated newspaper column, Jack Anderson noted the desire of the pair and a number of other gangsters to immigrate to Israel, which caused a controversy over immigration policies, (“‘Kosher Nostra’ in Promised Land”). Our letter states that American businessman Fred P. Pomerantz (1901-1986), owner of the well-known apparel company Leslie Fay Inc., requested that Kollek intervene on the gangsters’ behalf.

Normal folding and staple holes in the upper left corner with handwritten and stamped dockets in the upper margin. In fine condition. [indexhistory] [indexJudaica]

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