One of the most newsworthy happenings in
the history of the once heavily-Jewish Third Ward was the funeral
of Gangster Abner (Longy) Zwillman on Friday, February 27, 1959.
The event took place at the Apter Funeral Home on Stratford Place,
a two-block long Third Ward street that was an extension of Prince
Street, the main shopping thoroughfare for most of Newark's Jews.
Normally a quiet off-the-beaten path neighborhood street, the
Stratford Place Zwillman funeral attracted 350 mourners inside the
Apter funeral premises, among them, notables from the world of politics,
business, entertainment, and the rackets, and 1,500 onlookers outside.
Two notables observed by reporters interspersed among the crowd
of 1,500 on the street outside, were Zwillman's boyhood pal, Hollywood
Producer Dore Schary, and Toots Shor of the famed New York restaurant
bearing his name. The event made headlines nationwide, and a one-time
Longy acquaintance recalled to me that the Zwillman funeral was
given three pages in the New York Daily News.
Zwillman had died the day before the funeral on February 26, 1959.
The official report said that Zwillman had committed suicide by
hanging himself in the basement of his West Orange mansion.
The eulogy was by Rabbi Joachim Prinz of Newark's Temple B'nai
Abraham. Prinz, a recognized leader among American Jewry and then
president of the American Jewish Congress, kept the eulogy short.
He asked for compassion for the Zwillman family.
The bronze coffin was covered with a bed of 100 roses, with his
family and 80-year old mother sitting nearby in the front pew.
Seven chauffer-driven limousines and 27 private cars led the cortege
to the B'nai Abraham Memorial Park on Route 22 in Union. There,
the casket was placed in a concrete vault after the kaddish, the
traditional Hebrew prayer by a male relative, accompanied by Rabbi
Although Zwillman had ranked as one of the nation's top crime
bosses, and one of the six bosses of Murder Incorporated, he had
maintained his lifelong roots in Newark's old Third Ward and his
connections with Newark.
As a youth, living in and operating from the Prince Street Jewish
neighborhood, Zwillman and his gang had protected Jewish merchants
from marauding attacks by anti-Semites.
And in his years as bootlegger and Jersey crime boss, his generosity
to fellow Newarkers was legendary.
He funded the Mt. Carmel Guild downtown Newark soup kitchens through
seven Depression years.2 He provided needy Newark Jews with food
baskets during Jewish holidays, and was recalled to have distributed
truck loads of food and toys to needy in the Christian community
on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Zwillman's funeral in Newark's old Third Ward (now part of the
Central Ward) was probably the biggest happening of its kind ever
to take place there, and closed the curtain on one of the Third
Ward's most notorious and colorful sons, and an FBI file of 747