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According to evidence uncovered by the U.S. House of Representatives Assassinations Committee in the 1970s, Ruby was later linked to mobsters Carlos Marcello and Santos Traficante, who the panel considered prime suspects in a possible mob conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy.
Whatever he was doing behind the scenes, Ruby became known as a nightclub owner and at some point began attending services at Congregation Shearith Israel. Rabbi Hillel Silverman, who was the Dallas synagogue’s spiritual leader from 1954 to 1964, says Ruby came to say Kaddish for his father.
“He came to minyan one day with a cast on his arm,” Silverman recalled. “I said, ‘Jack, what happened?’ He said, ‘In my club, somebody was very raucous, and I was the bouncer.’ ”
Silverman, now 89 and still leading High Holy Days services every year, remembers Ruby well. Once Ruby showed up at the rabbi’s house with a litter of puppies and insisted the rabbi take one. When the family went to Israel one summer, Ruby looked after the dog.
“The day of the assassination, we had our regular Friday night service, which became a memorial service for the president,” Silverman said. “Jack was there. People were either irate or in tears, and Jack was neither. He came over and said, ‘Good Shabbos, rabbi. Thank you for visiting my sister Eva in the hospital last week.’ I thought that was rather peculiar.”
Two days later, Silverman spoke to his Sunday morning confirmation class, expressing relief to the students that Lee Harvey Oswald was not Jewish or there might have been a “pogrom” in Dallas. He then switched on the radio and heard that a “Jack Rubenstein” had killed the assassin.
“I was shocked,” said Silverman. “I visited him the next day in jail, and I said, ‘Why, Jack, why?’ He said, ‘I did it for the American people.’”
I interrupted Silverman, pointing out that other reports had Ruby saying he did it “to show that Jews had guts.” The rabbi sighed.
“Yes, he mentioned that,” Silverman said. “But I don’t like to mention it. I think he said, ‘I did it for the Jewish people.’ But I’ve tried to wipe that statement from my mind.”
Another person close to Ruby who tried, unsuccessfully, to block out the past is his nephew, “Craig” Ruby. (He asked that I not publish his real first name). His early memories are pleasant: Uncle Jack having a shot of whiskey with Craig’s father, doling out silver dollars to the kids, his flashy sports cars.