Murder Incorporated

Friday, May 05, 2006

Abner "Longie" Zwillman

As a youngster, Abner "Longy" Zwillman earned the gratitude of local Jewish peddlers because he and his gang, "The Happy Ramblers", defended them from assault by Irish thugs. Whenever the Irish came into the Jewish district to create trouble, a cry went up to "Ruff der Langer" (Yiddish for "Call the Tall One") and quick as a flash Zwillman and his pals would stop whatever they were doing and rush to help. As a result Longy had a reputation for helping Jews that stayed with him all his life. Over six feet two inches tall Zwillman got the name "Longy" because he was the tallest kid in his school. Together with his Italian allies, Longy ran Newark from the prohibition era until the 1950s. His influence was so great that he was referred to as the "Al Capone of New Jersey". Zwillman ran one of the biggest and most profitable bootlegging operations in the United States, importing nearly forty per cent of all the illegal alcohol consumed in the United States during prohibition. A customer wanting to but liquor came to Longy's office in Newark, deposited his money, and got a receipt entitling him to a specific amount of whisky. As Zwillman's wealth increased so did his political influence. He developed the pay off into an art, starting with the cop on the beat up to and including prosecutors and judges. The police did not just look the other way when illegal whisky was involved. They often convoyed trucks from the docks to the warehouses to prevent highjackings, and guarded the warehouses where the liquor was stored.

Despite Longy's reputation as a mobster, he always remained sensitive to his Jewish upbringing. When Heimi Kugel, a good friend of Longy's died, Zwillman would not go into the chapel where the casket lay. Heimi's son Jerry could not understand it. He felt hurt, because they knew his father loved Zwillman. After the service, he went over to Longy who was standing outside, and asked him why he did not go into the funeral parlour to pay his respects. "I can't, Jerry," long said. "I'm a Cohen".

Jerry looked confused, until someone standing nearby explained that as a Cohen, a descendant of the ancient hebrew priestly class, Longy was not allowed to be in the same room with the dead body. But Longy's luck ran out. Just as the FBI were compiling information to send Longy to prison for the rest of his life he was mysteriously found hanging from elastic cord in his home in Newark. The investigation into his death was inconclusive, but there were many bruises on Zwillman's body that remained unexplained. Underworld gossip had it that partners of Zwillman were worried that he may "sing" to the police in protection against a life sentence. Gangsters never "wait and see".


  • Your debt of gratitude should be to Albert Fried, a retired history professor from SUNY Purchase. Amazon citation:
    The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Gangster in America [Paperback]
    Albert Fried (Author).
    It was published in 1994.
    The book is far more comprehensive than the Cohen book and also will demonstrate Cohen's chief source for this book. Because Fried's an academic there will be a context for what went on with the "tough" Jews. Also the turn of the century Jews he discusses will be an eye opener. Highly recommended.

    By Blogger mitchjf, at 11:47 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home