On January 29, 2021, 3½ years after my wife Nell suggested in financial exasperation that I write a book, I put on “outside” clothes, sneakers and my protective mask, then walked down to our local FedEx office. There, I plugged my thumb drive into a printer…then watched in relief and wonder as it printed out a complete manuscript of my book Interrogating Memory: Film Noir Spurs a Deep Dive Into My Family History…and My Own. You may find some of the book’s backstory here.
Manuscript in hand, I began the process of getting it published; any advice or assistance you have to offer will be greatly appreciated. This is easily the most terrifying thing I have ever done: I feel as though I am trying to hit a bullseye on a moving target while blindfolded. I compiled a list of 19 literary agents I felt were the best fit for this book, sending formal queries to 10 of them, keeping nine in reserve. Two agencies sent immediate rejections, while I have yet to hear from the other eight.
In the meantime, I have decided to increase public awareness of my work by publishing excerpts from Interrogating Memory on this site. This is the closest I can come to a “teaser trailer.“
I have written extensively about my maternal grandfather, born Yisrael HaCohen in Shpola in modern-day Ukraine on December 12, 1904. Or maybe it was November 22, 1905? The latter date is recorded on his father Yosef HaCohen’s Petition For Naturalization, while the former date is recorded on the Montefiore Cemetery gravestone of Samuel Joseph Kohn of Cleveland, the name and city of birth he chose to sidestep the anti-Semitism of the Philadelphia Police Department (“PPD”) he joined as Patrolman on August 14, 1931.
For more on Samuel Kohn’s 22 years on the PPD–his stint as a plain-clothes detective, his possible association with future Police Commissioner and Mayor Frank Rizzo, and his own issues with “moonlighting”– I urge you read Chapter 2 (The Dancing Rabbi, The Philly Cop and The Baker’s Daughter) as soon as Interrogating Memory is published.
Until then, please enjoy this brief excerpt from that Chapter.
Philadelphia Police Department
According to my maternal aunt, her father…
…was a plain clothes detective for a time, but his combative personality got him in trouble. His steadiest partner on the force was a blondish man named Auerbach, who had a squad car in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood where they lived.[i]
Meanwhile, my maternal aunt correctly remembered “a blondish man named Auerbach.” Born in the Pale on June 14, 1910, Jerome Jacob “Jack” Auerbach immigrated with his Yiddish-speaking family to Manhattan in 1913. By 1934, however, he had moved to Philadelphia, where he married Mildred Murlend. Within six years, they were living in a two-story rowhouse at 1935 N. Patton Street, just one block north of where Patrolman Kohn and his young family lived in 1945 and 1946. Despite later founding the PPD K9 Unit, Auerbach was a bit of a rascal.[ii] Soon after arresting the Mari brothers, he was demoted to Patrolman out of the 32nd district (65th Street and Woodland Avenue) in southwest Philadelphia. On April 28, 1949, Auerbach was suspended along with 19 other PPD policemen as part of a two-day crackdown after “Capt. Edward Fossler and Sgt. John Smith said they found Auerbach sitting in his own car with a young woman companion…when he should have been patroling [sic] his beat.”[iii] He was parked at 74th Street and Buist Avenue, one block from his beat: 74th Street and Island Avenue. When the officers approached the car, Auerbach “stepped on the gas and led them a three-mile chase through West Philadelphia” to the corner of Shields and Yocum Streets, less than two blocks from his own station house.[iv] Auerbach’s parked car was dark; the young woman hid on the floor. Curiously, Auerbach was taken to the neighboring 21st district (32nd Street and Woodland Avenue) to be suspended.[v]
While it was particularly brazen to do so with a young woman, “hiding out” was common; eight other PPD policemen were suspended that day for “resting” in such exotic places as a Penn fraternity house, a park bench and the office of a garage. Indeed:
“The work of a footman was brutally monotonous. The same row houses. The same families, the same small-time businessmen. A footman was prone to hiding out, especially in rough weather, in luncheonettes and living rooms, or in the wooden boxes where the sergeants checked up on the men. If you got caught hiding out, the discipline was swift, the infraction rarely forgiven. You remained a footman.”[vi]
Auerbach was transferred to the 16th District (39th Street and Lancaster Avenue, three blocks southeast of John Rhoads Company), where his troubles got worse. On July 25, 1949, Auerbach was brought before the Civil Service Commission (“CSC”), accused of violating the City Charter by being a partner in a plumbing business launched one month before he arrested the Mari brothers; his former partner’s wife Ruth alleged he supervised and performed plumbing jobs when he should have been on duty. That same former partner, Benjamin Glazer, had himself been indicted for embezzlement and fraudulent conversion.[vii] Two days later, CSC recommended Auerbach’s dismissal;[viii] he was suspended the following day.
The disgraced Auerbach sought reinstatement well into 1950, arguing “one private complainant against him [had] failed to appear” at two prior mandamus petition hearings.[ix] Auerbach could also have argued he was far from the only moonlighting PPD patrolman. When Samuel H. Rosenberg was sworn in as Director of Public Safety on March 10, 1949[x], he soon realized “most nights, more police officers were moonlighting than were available for duty.” [xi] On February 21, 1951, Judge James C. Crumlish agreed, ordering Jack Auerbach reinstated as of the previous October 3.[xii] That same year, Auerbach married Dorothea Bochardt, by whom he had a daughter named Denise. Chastened by two suspensions, he rose to the rank of Captain in 1960, then later Inspector. Jack Auerbach died at the of 62 on January 26, 1973 then was buried in Roosevelt Memorial Park [eds. note: my father was buried there 8 1/2 years later].
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[i] E-mail dated March 11, 2013
[iii] “10 More Police Are Suspended,” PI, April 29, 1949, pg.1 (continued pg. 3).
[iv] According to Google Maps, this is only about a 1.3-mile drive—if driven directly.
[v] Woodland Avenue now ends at 38th Street, as the University of Pennsylvania now occupies most of the area between 38th Street and the Schuylkill River, north to Market Street.
[vi] Paolantonio, S. A. 1993. Frank Rizzo: The Last Big Man in Big City America. Philadelphia, PA: Camino Books, pg. 38.
[vii] “3d Dismissal Ordered for Policeman,” PI, July 26, 1949, pg. 21.
[viii] “Rosenberg Asked To Fire Officer,” PI, July 28, 1949, pg. 3.
[ix] “Suspended Officer Sues for His Job,” PI, November 16, 1950, pg. 23.
[x] After serving as Acting Director since February 4. “S.H.Rosenberg, 39, Sworn by Samuel As Safety Director,” PI, March 11, 1949, pg. 1.
[xi] Paolantonio, pg. 43.
[xii] “Fired Policeman Returned to Job,” PI, February 22, 1951, pg. 25.