JFK50: Rabbi Hillel Silverman 'It's Like A Bad Memory' - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Reporter Hal Eisner

JFK50: Rabbi Hillel Silverman 'It's Like A Bad Memory'

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TODAY IN HISTORY: It is Sunday, November 24th, 2013. On Sunday, November 24th, 1963 Jack Ruby was near the Dallas Police Station, according to Hillel Silverman - Ruby's Rabbi - the Dallas strip club owner saw a crowd at the DPD. He walked over and because he knew a lot of officers, he walked right into the place. Silverman says Ruby always carried a gun because of the stuff that would happen at his strip club. Says Silverman, in an interview I did at his La Jolla condo a few days ago, Ruby told him he didn't know Lee Harvey Oswald was going to be transferred to County jail, but as he was he shot him. It was a fit of rage says the Rabbi. In the many jailhouse visits that would occur between Silverman and Ruby in the months that followed the Rabbi says Oswald's killer insisted he did it alone and there was no conspiracy. Fifty years ago today he Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald LIVE on TV. Why did he do it? Silverman, now 89, says Ruby told him he did it "for the American people" and so First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy didn't have to come back to Dallas for a trial. Here is one of my stories with Ruby's Rabbi who, incidentally, was also my rabbi and Abraham Zapruder's (the famous JFK assassination home movie maker). All three of us went to the same synagogue in Dallas, Texas. 


If you were alive back then WHERE WERE YOU when President Kennedy was killed? I was in Mr. Hoffrichter's class at Benjamin Franklin Junior High in Dallas. Yes, it happened in my hometown. When our principal Lloyd Bell announced on the school's speakers that the President had been shot Mr. Hoffrichter buried his head in his hand. The mood in the classroom suddenly changed. So, did the world.

It's been five decades and the memory is still the same. First, the President is killed, Gov. Connolly is wounded, people crying publicly and then Dallas strip club owner Jack Ruby kills Lee Harvey Oswald live on national television. And, as fate would have it, Rabbi Hillel Silverman ended up in the middle of both.

Silverman, now 89, has three grown kids including well-known actor Jonathan Silverman. When I was a kid Hillel Silverman was my Rabbi at Shearith Israel Synagogue in Dallas. He was also Jack Ruby's. Yes, Ruby and I went to the same synagogue though we never knew each other.

Silverman, who says, "I can't believe it's been 50 years. It's like a bad memory," is now 89 years old. He tells me he clearly remembers the Friday he and his wife waited at the Dallas Trade Center for President and Mrs. Kennedy to arrive for a major luncheon. He was one of 500 clergy, community leaders and others invited to attend. He can't forget the announcement that the lunch was suddenly cancelled. The words that the President was shot and taken to nearby Parkland Hospital. The Rabbi and his wife took the four minute drive to Parkland Hospital, but it was already too late. The President was dead.

That Friday night the normal weekly Shabbat service became a memorial for the dead President. A thousand people were there. One of them was Jack Ruby.

Two days later, on Sunday, Silverman heard that Ruby – whose real name was Jack Rubenstein – killed Lee Harvey Oswald. It was incomprehensible. In the months that followed, until he became Rabbi of a Beverly Hills synagogue, he made routine visits a couple of times a week to Ruby's cell.

I'll be sharing much of what he told me and FOX 11 Photographer Tony Buttitta yesterday in our one-on-one interview. You can see the stories this morning and all day on FOX 11 and myfoxla.com on this 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, but a couple of highlights. The Rabbi says Ruby was emphatic that he acted alone. Says Silverman, "he told me there was no conspiracy. He was not connected with anybody. He just, in a fit of rage, pulled the trigger." Silverman also says Ruby never displayed any sense of regret. Why did he kill Oswald? Silverman says Ruby told him "for the American people!" And, he didn't want to have to see Jackie have to come back to Dallas for a trial.

Jack Ruby and I both went to Silverman's Synagogue. So, did Abraham Zapruder. He was the Dallas manufacturer who went to the motorcade route and took the assassination's most famous film.

It's been fifty years and I have to agree with Silverman. It's "… a bad memory!" It was, though, very nice to see my old Rabbi!
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