(24W3) Jack Ruby: The Many Faces of Oswald’s Assassin (31 Jan 2024)

January 31st, 2024, 7:00 pm - 8:15 pm

A Jewish American Tragedy

The recording of the class is at https://youtu.be/UrhtTYtRBn8.

On this 60th anniversary of the JFK assassination, learn about Jack Ruby, first from an interview of Ruby biographer Danny Fingeroth by C-Span’s Howard Mortman, then by reading the book.

Howard’s Questions:

Is it possible to still learn something new about the assassination of John F. Kennedy?

Yes – Here’s new stuff on Jack Ruby — the guy who killed the guy who killed the president.

Why did Ruby shoot Oswald?

Find out from Danny Fingeroth.

Bring your questions, your love of a heart-warming Jewish story about a sleezy mobbed-up nightclub owner who shoots people, and your conspiracy theories to this special discussion, a unique angle on the 60 years since JFK was killed.

Danny’s research:

Jack Ruby changed history with one bold, violent action: killing accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV two days after the November 22, 1963, murder of President John F. Kennedy.  But who was Jack Ruby — and how did he come to be in that spot on that day? Danny tried to find out with literature research and many interviews including with Hillel Silverman, the legendary Dallas rabbi who visited Ruby regularly in prison and who was witness to Ruby’s descent into madness, as well as with Ruby family members and associates.

There is evidence to paint him as at least two different people.  Much of his life story points to him as bumbling, vain, violent, and neurotic, a product of the grinding poverty of Chicago’s Jewish ghetto.  By the same token, evidence exists of Ruby as cagey and competent, perhaps not a mastermind, but someone capable of running numerous legal, illegal, and semi-legal enterprises.  For better or worse, Ruby’s is a very Jewish and very American saga, a Greatest Generation story gone horribly wrong.

Danny’s book: Jack Ruby: The Many Faces of Oswald’s Assassin is available at Amazon, Barnes & Nobel and your neighborhood bookstore.

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DANNY FINGEROTH is an accomplished biographer and cultural historian/commentator, specializing in history at the intersection of Jewish and American cultures.  Fingeroth made his mark as a cultural observer with books including Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Our Society and Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero.  His acclaimed 2019 biography of Stan Lee, A Marvelous Life, looks at this innovative Jewish-American figure—the co-creator of Marvel Comics—in the context of the overall culture.

Now, with Jack Ruby: The Many Faces of Oswald’s Assassin, Fingeroth, his expert ear to the ground for deeper meanings—including examining Ruby’s complicated relationship with his Jewishness—takes us through Jack Ruby’s bizarre life of extreme behavior leading up to and beyond that fateful weekend in Dallas in November 1963 when Ruby emerged from a crowd and killed accused JFK-assassin Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV.

In addition to his writings, Fingeroth has served as an executive editor at Marvel and other media companies and has spoken and taught about the intersection of popular culture and history at venues including the Smithsonian Institution, Columbia University, the New York Historical Society, and the Bob Dylan/Switchyard Conference, as well as on NBC’s Today Show and NPR’s All Things Considered.  He has written for publications including The Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun, and The Wall Street Journal and has been interviewed as an historical expert in numerous documentaries.

Howard Mortman, according to the Washington Post columnist John Kelly, “is the sort of person who reads old copies of the Congressional Record for fun.  Oh, and for work.”

Howard has been C-SPAN’s Communications Director since early 2009.  He directs media outreach, corporate communications, and public relations efforts for the nation’s only public affairs cable television network.  Howard researches, scripts, and voices the C-SPAN podcast “The Weekly” that tells the story of today’s policy and political news in context of recent historical events.

Howard’s book When Rabbis Bless Congress: The Great American Story of Jewish Prayers on Capitol Hill was published in October 2020.  It is the first-ever academic and historical examination of a little-known tradition in Congress — opening each session of the House and Senate in prayer.  Kirkus Review calls the book “Academically detailed yet esoterically fun.”  Howard has conducted additional research into rabbis in the political process as a Director’s Fellow for the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati. 

You can buy Howard’s When Rabbis Bless Congress: The Great American Story of Jewish Prayers on Capitol Hill at Amazon or Barnes & Nobel or your local bookstore.

Howard has also written political comedy.  His tweets have appeared on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”  And he has performed stand-up comedy at such venues as the DC Improv.  He gave up comedy when the audiences gave up laughing.

During the 2002 and 2004 election cycles Howard produced MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”  Howard has also worked for National Journal where he wrote the column “Extreme Mortman” and edited the daily political briefing “The Hotline,” regarded as the Bible of American politics.