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Rookie Cop
Deep Undercover in the Jewish Defense League

A Memoir by Richard Rosenthal

Excerpted from Chapter One:

Sol Hurok immigrated to the United States from the village of Pogar, Russia in 1906 and made a small living for himself by producing concerts for New York City's burgeoning labor societies. Over the years, the workers' craving for high-brow entertainment grew to such an extent that his concerts were staged in the enormous amusement hall built by P.T. Barnum, the Hippodrome. Hurok became the personal manager of the great Afro-American contralto Marian Anderson and arranged the first U.S. tour for the young violin sensation and son of a poor Israeli barber, Itzak Perlman. Within several generations Hurok became known as The Impresario, importing such world class entertainment as the Comédie Française and the Old Vic to perform for American audiences. A more beneficial, or benign profession would be hard to imagine. Except that the talent he imported also included the Bolshoi Ballet and the Moiseyev Dance Company and there were those who wished to disrupt the ties between the United States and the then-Soviet Union — by any means necessary.

Hurok had been warned many times that he was to stop bringing in Soviet performers. Bottles of ammonia had been uncorked during a number of his events as well as shows produced by Columbia Artists, a rival company which also imported Russian talent. Live mice and stink bombs had been used to cause upset to the audiences. Some performances had been disrupted by shouting. Annoying as those actions might have been, they hadn't proven effective enough. It was thought that perhaps smoke bombs, delivered right to Hurok's office, as well as those of Columbia Artists, would make the point.

A young man was given some money to buy the chemicals (hypnole and an oxygenator) in order to produce the devices. Although an effective smoke bomb needed only a few ounces of the two materials when combined, he purchased a hundred pounds of it, the reasoning being, if a little smoke was good, a lot of smoke would be better. Then he and another fellow made up two bombs, each weighing thirteen pounds and placed the bombs inside two cheap attaché cases, a small fuse jutting inconspicuously outside each, ready for the match.

Because the members of the group who came up with this idea were on probation or facing serious criminal charges from recent arrests, it was decided that four fresh faces would be used to plant the two devices. Two teams of high-school age youngsters were to be sent out with the packages; one pair to Columbia Artists, the other young men to Hurok's. They first met at their headquarters in Brooklyn. There they were shown how to light the fuses and told where to deliver the smoke bombs. The teams then got into one of the young men's cars and headed into Manhattan.

The first device was set off at the Columbia Artists office at 9 A.M. As it was still early in the day, only a handful of employees had arrived at work. When the device went off at the office's entrance those inside were able to safely escape via a rear exit. No one was injured. It was about 9:30 A.M. when the pair assigned to Hurok's office at 6th Avenue and 56th Street got off the elevator at the 20th floor. One of the young men went up to a receptionist and inquired about purchasing tickets for some future performance. While the receptionist was busy searching out the information, the two teenagers placed the attaché case under a table, lit the fuse and quickly departed.

A moment later, one of Hurok's employees noticed smoke coming from across the room. Surprised, he began to rise from his seat when suddenly that part of the room all at once became engulfed in an intense red, pink and purple flare. He ran from the room. A fraction of a second later the ignited chemicals began an incendiary fire whose temperature reached 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat was so intense that lethal chemical reactions took place. Phosgene gas was released from the plastic covering of the blazing furniture. A gas that had proven deadly on the battlefields of World War One would now prove equally effective here.

Unlike Columbia Artists, there was no rear exit at Hurok's. The reception area was an inferno, those inside prisoners. The poison fume spread at a leisurely pace as it made for its victims. Some attempted to fight back, tossing waste buckets of water into the fire. But, at 1,700 degrees water ignites. The people retreated. Behind them metal objects began to melt. With no where to run workers began smashing panes of glass, letting in fresh air. This act saved their lives. Others found themselves trapped in less fortunate circumstances.

Three women, including twenty-seven year old Iris Kones, took refuge in an inner office. Tendrils of black smoke soon worked its way under their door. The small space quickly filled with the poison and the three lost consciousness. It took some time for rescuing firemen to locate the three women. Oxygen revived two. But not Kones. She was dead. Before those responsible were aware they had killed a young Jewish woman, one of those in charge of the operation had already made the obligatory call to the media, saying: "This culture destroys millions of Jews. Cultural bridges of friendship will not be built over the bodies of Soviet Jews. NEVER AGAIN!"

At first, the New York Police Department had nothing but a very strong hunch about those responsible for the bombing. The motive, the tactics, and the phone message all pointed to a small group of extremists who were almost unknown when I was assigned to infiltrate them two years before, and in a sadly ironic phrase had been described to me then as a black cloud on the horizon.

Copyright © Richard Rosenthal, 2000. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced in any form without permission of the publisher.

Rookie Cop: Deep Undercover in the Jewish Defense League
True Crime/Jewish Studies/Biography
A Leapfrog Press Paperback Original
Pub Date: August, 2000
ISBN: 0-9654578-4-5
193  Pages/ 6 x 9 / 14.95

To Buy This Book Online, Click Here!