Born Zelig Harry Lefkowitz in 1888, Zelig became a well known pickpocket and thief as a teenager on New York's Lower East Side as a member of Crazy Butch's pickpocket gang before joining the Eastman Gang in the late 1890s. Rising up the ranks Zelig became leader of the Eastman Gang after "Kid Twist" Max Zwerbach's death in 1908. With lieutenants Jack Sirocco and Chick Tricker the gang had over seventy-five members including gangs such as the Lenox Avenue Gang led by "Gyp the Blood" Harry Horowitz.
After being arrested in 1911 for robbing a brothel, Sirocco and Trick attempted to gain leadership of the gang refusing to bail out Zelig. Zelig was later released due to his political connections however he was informed by a member that Sirocco and Tricker were planning on murdering him upon his release. The assassin, a gunman named Julie Morrell, was lured by Zelig to a Second Avenue nightclub where Morrell was killed, possibly while intoxicated, by the gang leader on December 2. The next year however Zelig was killed by "Red" Phil Davidson, following an altercation during a card game at a local cafe, on October 5, 1912 while on a Thirteenth Street trolley.