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Bugsy Siegel’s Daughter Gets a Jewish Burial in Las Vegas

Bugsy Siegel’s Daughter Gets a Jewish Burial in Las Vegas

Millicent Rosen, 86, receives a proper funeral following a local rabbi’s visit to a hospice

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Rabbi Mendy Harlig with Cindy Rosen, center, and Wendy Rosen, granddaughters of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, the charming, notorious Jewish mob figure widely recognized as the visionary behind modern Las Vegas.
Rabbi Mendy Harlig with Cindy Rosen, center, and Wendy Rosen, granddaughters of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, the charming, notorious Jewish mob figure widely recognized as the visionary behind modern Las Vegas.

The rabbi thought nothing of the Flamingo Hotel as he passed it on his way to a Las Vegas area hospice. Despite the glitz and glimmer that draws people to the desert city—and the grimy edge that sometimes keeps them there for good—Las Vegas is a big place, home to real people with real (and regular) lives, and Rabbi Mendy Harlig was on his way last week to do what rabbis often do: meet with a Jewish woman breathing her last.

Harlig, a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi, regularly visits Jewish patients in municipal hospitals and hospices. This time, a family he did not know had requested a rabbi, and Compassion Care Hospice had called him. There, he met the woman, Millicent Rosen, and her family. He helped her recite the prayers for one’s final moments, which concludes with the Shema, Judaism’s central prayer. Before leaving, as he always does, the rabbi inquired about the funeral plans.

“I said that due to economic reasons, we were choosing cremation, and then she would be interred at our family mausoleum in New York,” says Rosen’s daughter, Wendy. Shipping a body was expensive; this seemed the easiest solution.

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The rabbi immediately offered to find the funds to have Millicent buried according to Jewish law, explaining how important a proper burial is for the soul of the deceased.

During their discussion, Wendy Rosen mentioned her family’s long history in Las Vegas.

“What history?” asked Harlig.

Millicent Rosen, who passed away on Nov. 17 at the age of 86, was the eldest daughter of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, the charming and notorious Jewish mob figure widely recognized as the visionary behind modern Las Vegas. For all the good, the bad and the ugly, Bugsy is the reason Vegas looks as it does today, simultaneously an oasis and a mirage sparkling in Nevada’s desert sun. He was killed in a gangland hit on June 20, 1947, in Beverly Hills, Calif., a murder that has never been solved. The man has become a legend in the more than half-century since then; gallons of ink have been spilled reviling or glamorizing him, attributing both real and imagined illegal acts to the crime boss.

“At that point, I suggested that we bury her here in Las Vegas,” says Harlig, who with his wife, Chaya, directs Chabad of Green Valley in Henderson, Nev. “We have a historic Jewish cemetery here; it seemed like a way of completing the circle.”

Millicent Rosen, who passed away on Nov. 17 at age 86, was Siegel’s eldest daughter.
Millicent Rosen, who passed away on Nov. 17 at age 86, was Siegel’s eldest daughter.

The importance of a proper burial in Jewish law and tradition cannot be underestimated. “For dust you are, and to dust you will return,” G‑d told Adam, the first human being. Chabad.org’s extensive section on Death and Mourning quotes King Solomon, who said: “And the earth returns to the land as it was, and the spirit returns to G‑d, who gave it.” The article explains that “the next stage in the continuing saga of a human life is that the body should return to the earth, the source of all physical life, and be reunited with it, just as the soul returns to its Divine root.”

Taking part in the proper burial of a Jewish person is considered a mitzvah of the highest order. Maimonides explains that even the High Priest, who was prohibited from attending his own family’s funerals, was required to take it upon himself to personally bury a met mitzvah, an abandoned Jewish body that had no one to attend to its proper burial.

The Rosen family immediately agreed, and on Nov. 21, following a taharah, Millicent was buried with a minyan on hand in the city her famous and infamous father had dreamed of.

“Rabbi Mendy took care of all the arrangements,” Wendy says, choking up. “What a gift from G‑d, he has been throughout this entire ordeal.”

A Fairly ‘Ordinary’ Father

Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel
Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel

Of course, to Millicent Rosen and her younger sister, Barbara, Bugsy Siegel was simply their father.

Millicent was born in New York City on Jan. 14, 1931, where she and her sister spent their early years. Her father, Benjamin, and mother, Esta (nee Krakower), who married in 1929, were both the children of Eastern European immigrants.

Benjamin had grown up poor in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where he met other young Jews looking to get ahead, including Meyer Lansky, in addition to non-Jews such as Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Another childhood buddy was Al Capone. In their early years, Lansky, Siegel and Louis “Lepke” Buchalter formed a Jewish gang, busying themselves with bootlegging and racketeering. A decade later, they joined with the Italian syndicate in forming Murder Inc., which, as the name implies, carried out mob hits for hire. The businesses Siegel was a part of were many things, but unprofitable they were not; by the early 1930s he owned an apartment at the Waldorf-Astoria, and Millicent grew up surrounded by luxury.

The girls never knew what their doting, soft-spoken father did for business. In a 2009 interview with Clark County Television, Rosen remembered telling classmates at school that her father was retired.

“I didn’t know about Murder Inc. or any of those things,” she said.

Under investigation on the East Coast, Siegel headed to California in the late `30s, and his family followed, settling in Beverly Hills. There, Millicent learned to ride horses while her parents hobnobbed with Hollywood figures. It was then that the mobster began exploring the desert town of Las Vegas, at the time with a population of barely 20,000.

“Buy land,” Siegel told people at the opening of the costly and over budget Flamingo Hotel in 1946, for one day “there’ll be one million people here.”

Bugsy and Esta’s marriage ended in the 1946, and Millicent’s mother and her two daughters moved back to New York. The girls were on a train to California to spend the summer with their father when family friend and underworld figure Allen Smiley boarded to take them off.

The girls’ handsome, blue-eyed father was dead at the age of 41, shot multiple times through the head. It was in the papers’ description of her father and his line of work that Millicent first got an inkling of what he actually did.

Police photos following one of Siegel’s many arrests before he settled in Las Vegas.
Police photos following one of Siegel’s many arrests before he settled in Las Vegas.

Minutes after his shooting, mob associates Moe Sedway, Gus Greenbaum and Morris Rosen walked into the Flamingo and took uncontested control of the operation.

Several years later, Millicent married Morris Rosen’s son (Rosen was a close associate of Meyer Lansky), Jack, with whom she had a son, Benjamin, who passed away in 1956, and two daughters, Cindy and Wendy. About 15 years ago, Millicent, who worked for many years in retail in Beverly Hills, moved to Las Vegas, where she began granting interviews about memories of her father—the more personal, intimate side of him—and what she saw as setting the record straight regarding his legacy, including the veracity of his nickname, which Siegel himself never liked.

“They say that he tended to get a bit handsy with the machine gun, and that’s why he was called ‘Bugsy,’ but he wasn’t crazy, and my mother set the reporters straight on that,” says Wendy. “We were never allowed to refer to him as Bugsy; he was our grandfather.”

‘A Person in Her Own Right’

As the daughter of Vegas royalty, Millicent Rosen became somewhat of a local celebrity in recent years.

“This legacy was something Millicent had to deal with her whole life,” says Harlig. “She was trying to have a relationship with her father after everything she had been through.”

Personal and family legacies are never easy to grapple with, all the more so when the parent is someone like Bugsy Siegel.

“Comfort, honor, everyone deserves that,” says the rabbi. “More than always having to answer questions, she’s a person in her own right.”

Bugsy Siegel’s Vegas is many things. It is the City of Sin and darkness, but also home to a thriving Jewish community. Aside from Harlig’s Henderson center, there are nine other Chabad houses in Las Vegas, plus the Desert Torah Academy, a Chabad day school. All of this, too, would likely never have been created had it not been for Siegel’s vision.

Memorial plaque for Siegel at the Bialystoker Synagogue on Manhattan’s Lower East Side
Memorial plaque for Siegel at the Bialystoker Synagogue on Manhattan’s Lower East Side

In her 2009 interview, Millicent Rosen—who in addition to her daughters was survived by her sister, Barbara Saperstein, and granddaughter, Mallory Rosenberg-Hammer—recalled her father taking her and Barbara out to the back of the Flamingo and pointing to the barren land stretching out before them, tumbleweeds blowing by.

“There’s 800 acres that belong to you kids,” he told his daughters.

A few years after his death, the land—today likely worth hundreds of millions of dollars—was sold for a paltry $24,000. Bugsy had known better.

Though that land was no longer in the family, 70 years later, on a Tuesday morning in a very different Las Vegas, Rosen, a Jew “formed … of dust from the earth” was returned, as a Jew, to the dust of the earth.

The family requests that memorial donations be sent to the Compassion Care Hospice of Nevada or Chabad of Green Valley.



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Anonymous Miami, Florida December 3, 2017

I give my donations to Chabad House locally. Why not ask other Chabad Houses to share the expense? Reply

Diane Florida via chabadwp.com December 1, 2017

Bug'seys Siegel s daughter Mrs. Rosen I am glad she had a jewish furneral Reply

Zachary L. Grayson Cherry Hill via chabadofdallas.com November 30, 2017

How easy it is to undo the good that you did. It was a wonderful mitzvah that you performed - it would have been even more beautiful if done quietly without sell the zchus in return for publicity but proudly posing in from of a picture of a notorious murderer is over the top. What must the children and grandchildren of his victims feel upon seeing Chabad hitch its wagon to this gangster? We used to be ashamed of our criminals and hide them to avoid a chilul Hashem. Shame on you for posing for the picture and shame on everyone involved in publishing it! Reply

Tone Lechtzier Oregon December 3, 2017
in response to Zachary L. Grayson:

Shalom,
our country [US], is over shadowed by a criminal cartel [industrial military complex deep state,] Bugsy was an angel compared. The death of a family member that had nothing to do with their fathers enterprises does not need your negative comment. Shame on you.
Blessings Reply

Gene Robbins November 30, 2017

Chabad-Lubavitch is all about the love of a fellow Jew no exceptions. Well done. A heart felt story to be shared. Story’s and givings like this keep Chabad-Lubavich in all our Jewish hearts Reply

Esther NY November 27, 2017

It's great that she was given a Jewish burial but I never thought I'd see chabad.org glorify a mob boss. Reply

Tone Lechtzier Oregon December 3, 2017
in response to Esther:

Shalom,
Bugsy is a legend, some history and a picture is hardly glorification.
Blessings Reply

Yankeleh Gilead Eastern Thailand November 26, 2017

The story about Bugsy Siegel's daughter was very poignant. My Uncle Leo who lived in the Van Cortland area of the Bronx was a close friend of Meyer Lansky and wanted to bring him to my bar mitzveh celebration on Manhattan's Lower East Side.My mom vetoed the idea. Pity.Reading about these Jewish gangsters, Siegel, Lansky and the few others really was like a trip back in time for me. God bless all of them, the good, the bad, the evil.For whatever they were, they were our people. they were Jews. Reply

Tone Lechtzier Oregon November 27, 2017
in response to Yankeleh Gilead:

Amen Yankeleh, compared to most governments and the Illuminati, they were angels. Meyer arranged for the Mafia to protect our ports during WW2, by government request. My father, a life long friend & associate, told me an interesting story about the initial founding days of Israel. " Arabs would sell their properties to Jews, then, come back, murder the Jews, and move back in. This went on for several weeks. Meyer, put out the word, that for every Jew murdered, a hundred Arabs would perish. Meyer made good on his promise. In about two weeks, the Arabs ceased & desisted from murdering us." [ for a while ]

B"H" ~ Tone Lechtzier Reply

Yehoshua November 30, 2017
in response to Tone Lechtzier:

That's very interesting! Reply

Anonymous November 25, 2017

With all due respect to the Family.
I see no reason to glorify the lifestyle of this criminal There's nothing Jewish about it. Some Nazi's were also known to be good to their Wives and children. I'm happy the Family have returned to Juidaism. This fellow is not a good role model. My Grandfather A"H. Qualified to be a pilot in the war. But decided to become a medic. Because he didn't want to kill anyone. He stayed on the frontline in Egypt until the Germans came, treating the wounded. Reply

Yankeleh Gilead Eastern Thailand November 27, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

I'm sorry Anonymous does not agree with me, but that is his/her prerogative. I'm not exactly a paragon of virtue myself. I do not follow talmudic law, read the Torah, put on tfillin, follow kashrut or observe Shabbess. for all my transgressions, there is no living being who can judge me. It is only God's judgement that counts in the end.For whatever Bugsy Siegel was, in the eyes of the law, to his children he was a loving, giving, caring father. God will in his infinite wisdom judge him for that as well. Reply

Tone Lechtzier Oregon November 27, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Shalom, I see no glorification in the article, just a little history of Bugsy. My gratitude to your father for serving.

Blessings ~ Tone Lechtzier Reply

Mac Davison November 27, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

The article is not glorifying Siegel. Siegel is a historical figure and without his vision and influence, Las Vegas would not be what it is today. Reply

Ali Rion Oregon November 24, 2017

Rest in peace Miss Rosen. Glad that Chabad was there for you in your final moments and you were reunited with your Fatherl Reply

Ron Shapiro Houston via chabadneworleans.com November 24, 2017

no mention of the time in the late 30's, when Siegel and Lansky led a group of 12 Jewish tough guy's, with bats and chains and stormed a meeting of 100 members of the German Bund,in Manhattan. Reply

meir phoenix November 24, 2017

Yasher Koach Rabbi Harlig Reply

Andrea Mann Swampscott November 24, 2017

Wonderful Story. So interesting. I am so glad Chabad was able to help Millicent. Her dad did do a lot of good as well. Reply

Yechiel Shlipshon Nashville November 24, 2017

Mr. Seigel's legasy As I read the article, I was reminded of the Jewish belief that no one is all good, or all evil. The yetzer Ha-Ra and the yetzer Ha Tov (the evil and good inclinations) are in each of us, and Mr. Siegel is a good representation of this ideal. Reply

Anonymous Johannesburg November 26, 2017
in response to Yechiel Shlipshon:

The "ideal" is to control your evil side, not to give expression to it. Mr. Siegel wasn't a good representation of any "ideal". Reply

Yankeleh Gilead Eastern Thailand November 28, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

It is interesting to note that we do not condemn Menachim Begin or the Stern Gang for the blowing up of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem where a lot of British and others were killed needlessly. I suppose there is a distinction between a Jewish terrorist fighting for Israel and a gangster in L.V. I'm not passing judgement on either. But let's be fair.Don't put Begin on a pedestal while condemning Bugsy. Reply

Ron Shapiro Houston via chabadneworleans.com November 30, 2017
in response to Yankeleh Gilead:

There would be no State of Israel, today, if the Irgun did not blow up the King David Hotel. This act convinced the British to leave after 31 yrs. The sweet talking nice approach did not have any effect on the Jew hating Brits. Reply

Yaakov Yehuda) Levine Passaic November 23, 2017

Interesting Yahrzeit Excellent. A commendable kiddush Hashem.

FYI, I’ve seen that memorial plaque: BEIRUSH Ben MORDECHAI DOV HaLevi (also) passed away on GIMMEL TAMMUZ.... Reply

Anonymous Boca Raton, FL November 23, 2017

Interesting story. If any city needs Chabad, it's Las Vegas. Perhaps there is some light to bring forth out of this City of Sin. Reply

Peter J Nickitas S Paul, MN November 23, 2017

Mr. Sigel was a man of great vision. There is no statue to commemorate him in Las Vegas. This article does something to fill the void, Merit goes to Chabad.

Can anyone validate the story that Mr. Siegel had a clean shot at assassinating Goebbels and Goering before the war? Thank you. Reply

A J Anyaegbunam Enugu, South Eastern Nigeria November 24, 2017
in response to Peter J Nickitas:

Statues and other carved objects are not permitted in "Judaism" as has been verified by numerous archaelogical diggings in Israel, Reply

Anonymous N J November 24, 2017
in response to Peter J Nickitas:

The is ( or was ) a statue near the wedding chapel at the Flamingo Reply

Robert November 23, 2017

Thank you for such a terrific story! Reply

Nozomu Suzuki North York November 23, 2017

Cool! I don't know what else to say! Reply

Jeffrey November 23, 2017

Respect to the tough jews Those were tough jews bsck then, bugsy was a legend, like all the other jewish gangsters; meyer lansky,.....
If it wasn't for bugsy vegas would still be a hick redneck city. Reply

Bob Custer Carson City, Nevada November 24, 2017
in response to Jeffrey:

The Growth of Las Vegas.. That is not true--Vegas today would still be Vegas--that is a myth from the movie, "The Godfather"...Mr. Siegel helped Las Vegas grow--but The El Rancho Vegas was a nice Strip hotel years before the Flamingo was built.. Reply

Cynthia Duncan Miami November 22, 2017

Rip Millicent. Reply

Tone Lechtzier Central Or. high desert November 22, 2017

Shalom, may you rest in peace Millicent, my sincere condolences to family and friends. Toda Rabbi Harlig & Chabad.
Blessings, Meyer Lansky's Godson ~ Tone Lechtzier Reply

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