NEW YORK (Jan. 26)
One person died and eight people were injured in an explosion this morning that blasted the offices of impressario Sol Hurok and Columbia Artists Management, Inc. Just before the explosion anonymous callers telephoned news media offices to say: “This culture destroys millions of Jews. Cultural bridges of friendship will not be built over the bodies of Soviet Jews. Never again.” The slogan, “never again,” is used by the Jewish Defense League.
The JDL condemned the incident and suggested that it was the work of “Communist provocateurs.” The reference to cultural bridges was believed to refer to Hurok’s role in managing American tours of Soviet artists under cultural exchange programs between the two countries. Columbia Artists is handling the tour in the US of the Osipov Balalaika Orchestra from the USSR.
State Department spokesman Charles Bray, commenting on the fire, said “If these acts are directed against American-Soviet cultural exchanges they must be deplored by all who have an interest in better relations in the world. The act is reprehensible.”
Bert Zweibon, JDL national vice-chairman, declared: “Irrespective of our feelings about Soviet cultural exchanges, we deplore an attack of this kind on an American organization. We know the ease with which telephone calls can be made to throw suspicion on an organization by the use of a slogan.” He said he could not discount the fire as the work of Communist provocateurs to discredit the JDL.
The National Conference On Soviet Jewry condemned “such violence” and declared that such actions “alienates support from Jews and non-Jews in the United States, as well as from Soviet intellectuals who are sympathetic to the cause of Soviet Jews.”
Fire Department officials at the scene of the blaze termed the fire suspicious but said there was no immediate evidence of any incendiary device that could have set off the fire. There were earlier unconfirmed reports that an incendiary device was the cause of the blaze. The victim of the fire was identified initially as a woman who apparently died on the scene. The 83-year-old Russian-born Hurok suffered from smoke inhalation and he and the other seven injured persons were examined and released from hospitals.