Rookie Cop: Deep Undercover in the Jewish Defense League

Richard Rosenthal, Author
Richard Rosenthal, Author Leapfrog Press $14.95 (193p) ISBN 978-0-9654578-8-0
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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In 1969, just before he was to be sworn in as a New York City police officer, Rosenthal was recruited as an undercover agent for the force's ""intelligence gathering"" department. His job: infiltrate the Jewish Defense League, the militant group led by Rabbi Meir Kahane that had disrupted public hearings and assaulted some members of other extremist groups, and was seen to have the potential for more trouble. So Rosenthal told people he decided not to join the force, drove a cab as cover and--sans gun, badge or training--quickly became a regular at demonstrations protesting the Soviet Union's unwillingness to let Jews emigrate. Now a police chief in Wellfleet, Mass., and the author of several books on police craft and one novel, Rosenthal does a solid job of reconstructing his undercover stint, detailing some tense situations, like how he regularly defused suspicion that he was, in fact, an undercover cop. His presence was opportune: the JDL was expanding its violent aims, gathering weapons and bomb-making materials. Kahane and others were arrested, thanks in part to the then-departed Rosenthal, after the bombing of a Soviet trade office. However, Rosenthal rarely widens his focus to discuss how he (and his wife) managed the stress of his undercover work. Also, despite his acknowledgment that Kahane ""was neither a saint nor a sinner"" and his observation that most JDL members represented a segment of population whose needs, fears and concerns weren't addressed by established Jewish organizations, Rosenthal doesn't say enough about the broader origins of the JDL and its place in New York history. (Aug.)
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