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July 25, 1986 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-07-25

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targets that will make Americans gasp:
`How could Jews do such things?' They
[the underground] are desperate people.
They don't care if they live or die!"

Legacy of Violence

The JDL itself was built on a doctrine
of desperation that warned American Jews
they would be engulfed in a second Holo-
caust. Founded in 1968 by Brooklyn-born
Rabbi Meir Kahane, the JDL grew from
a handful of hard-core activists and a
mimeograph machine to more than 10,000
members, some of -whom were trained in
weapons and martial arts at a camp in the
Catskill mountains. Soon camp alumni had
graduated from "protecting" elderly Jews
left behind in black and Puerto Rican
neighborhoods to bombing Russian and
Arab property in the U.S. "Kahane got
crazies to do things nice Jewish boys never
would," says Gary Moskowitz, a former
martial arts instructor at. the JDL Catskill
mountain camp and currently a New York
City cop.
By the 1980s, however, the JDL was a
shadow of its former self. Its decline
started in the early 1970s after Kahane
moved to Israel, where he used the orga-
nization as a means to funnel money and
manpower to his Kach (Thus) party in
Jerusalem. "Our best boys have gone to
Israel to be with the Rabbi," says Irwin
Block, the head of the JDL in southern
Florida. "All that's left here are old men."
Indeed, the JDL's current membership
has dropped to well below 1,000; by the
end of last year, it had less than $3,000 in
its national treasury. Six months ago,
Fern Rosenblatt, who was then the JDL's
national director, had to close the
organization's national office on Kings
Highway in Brooklyn for lack of funds.
Although the JDL is back in the news
because of last year's bombings, it is not
only broke, but also in total disarray.
Kahane's prolonged absences from the
U.S. have created a vacuum that over the
years has nurtured the growth of com-
peting bands of right-wing Jewish
warlords, who are united only by the
rabble-rousing rabbi's legacy of violence
and Jewish machismo. It is a legacy that
. has ultimately turned the JDL into a
fratricidal movement, in which its
members spend more time plotting against
each other than against their gentile
enemies. So violently factionalized has the
JDL become that last December —
shortly after Kahane named Vancier East
Coast JDL boss at a convention at the
Penta Hotel in Manhattan — turmoil
erupted within the movement. Walter
Berkowitz, the JDL's 65-year-old national
treasurer who opposed Vancier, con-
fiscated the organization's bank book and
membership list and turned them over to
Yacov Lloyd -- a young, militant Queens
rabbi with visions of becoming another
Kahane. The two men proclaimed them-

selves the heads of the "New JDL," -
though Lloyd told me they do not yet have
a single follower. Last December, a pipe
bomb exploded under Berkowitz's car,
shattering windows throughout his quiet
Queens neighborhood. In late February,
Berkowitz's car was totally destroyed by
a firebomb. No arrests have been made in
either incident.

him against the rabbi. "He never gave a
..?.. about American Jews," Wilson says
now from his 10th-floor suite in the Em-
pire State Building where he oversees his
many business interests, which include an
export-import firm. "He cares about Meir
Kahane. If he cared about American Jews,
he wouldn't have gone to Israel. Now that
he's there, let him stay there!"

Within this labyrinthine world of Jewish
militancy — where virtue is measured by
how much money one gives to right-wing
causes in Israel — there are many pre-
tenders to Kahane's throne.
The most serious challenge to Kahane's

So deep is his hatred of Kahane that in
September 1984, Wilson hired private de-
tectives to follow the rabbi while he was
in New York raising funds. One night,
Wilson told me, Kahane was tailed to a
safe house in an Irish neighborhood in
Queens, which he rented under an assumed

Carving up the Territory

Art By Stuart Stein

continued de facto control of the JDL —
and ultimately of the militant, right-wing
Jewish community in the U.S. — has come
from Murray Wilson, a 47-year-old Bronx-
born Jew who has a soft spot for Las
Vegas crap tables, gangster movies, and
radical right-wing Jewish politics. Though
Wilson says he has contributed more than
$350,000 in cash and equipment to JDL,
he publicly broke with Kahane in August
1984, after the rabbi wrote a column in the
Brooklyn-based Jewish Press calling for
the liquidation of "Hellenist, spiritually
sick [Jews] who threaten the existence of
Wilson says Kahane's violent rhetoric
against Jews whom he opposes, combined
with his neglect of the JDL so he could ad-
vance his career in Israel, eventually turned

name. While the rabbi slept, the men broke
into Kahane's rented car and stole his
briefcase. Several days later, Kahane's car
was broken into again. This time clothing
and religious articles were stolen and the
car was spray-painted with the slogan:
"Nigger get out of America."
That same week, the JDL's Brooklyn of-
fice was burglarized and the JDL's files
were stolen. On November 4, four men
were arrested for carrying concealed wea-
pons outside the Fort Lee, New Jersey,
synagogue where Kahane was speaking.
The four were bailed out of jail by Wilson.
Kahane later complained in a letter to the
FBI that Wilson was responsible for
burglarizing the JDL office and accused
Wilson of attempting to have him assas-
sinated — a charge Wilson flatly denies.


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