The Rabbi and the Hit Man

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9780060935610: The Rabbi and the Hit Man

A fascinating true crime narrative about the first rabbi ever accused of murder and what the case says about the role of clergy in America

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Review:

"a breakthrough book. In Magida's hands, the true-crime thriller reaches new levels of... fascination or revulsion." -- Baltimore Sun -- May 18, 2003

"astonishing stories.... jaw-dropping revelations."
"thoughtful and important book..."
"...brisk narrative." -- Courier-Post -- May 16, 2003

"blends deep reporting and psychological insight with the true crime genre."
"meticulously reconstructs Neulander's life..." -- Philadelphia Daily News -- May 21, 2003

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One
"There's Blood over Everything"
The sixteen-mile drive from M'kor Shalom to Crescent Burial Park normally took twenty minutes, but so many people joined the funeral procession for Carol Neulander that nearly an hour was required. Police and state troopers were stationed at major intersections to hold back other motorists so that the caravan could wend its doleful way across the landscape. All along the route, commercial enterprises that typified the best—and worst—of the Garden State were copiously in evidence. A BMW dealer whose "Ltd." after its name connoted a certain British classiness (even though BMWs are as Teutonic as any car can get); a splattering of capacious diners, appropriate symbols of an area totally lacking a culinary identity; a small, beige cottage whose neon sign advertised PSYCHIC/TAROT CARD READINGS; and an unending series of motels, sometimes up to eight in a row, featuring "free Continental breakfast" -- watered-down orange juice, instant coffee, doughnuts plucked from cardboard boxes.

The procession inched north on Route 73 for a few miles, then turned south on Route 130 until arriving at Crescent Burial Park. This was the largest Jewish cemetery in South Jersey, yet there wasn't enough room for the multitude of cars. Some people parked on the long, narrow road that stretched the entire length of the cemetery; others hunted for space on neighboring side streets.The hearse and the family's limousines went straight to the far end of the cemetary. Pallbearers carried the plain pine coffin to the burial plot thirty feet away, followed by Carol's children, her siblings, and, of course, her husband. A rabbi who had been friends with Fred and Carol recited verses from Psalms that didn't quite provide the intended comfort:

For He will give His angels charge over thee,
To keep thee in all thy ways ...
Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will see him securely on high, because he has known My name ...
With a long life, I will satisfy him,
And let him behold My salvation.
The freshly dug ground of Grave D in Plot 910 of Section F was just behind the tall green fence that separated Crescent Burial Park from the modest homes bordering on it. Not the best place to raise kids, but an inexpensive one. Carol Neulander would be laid to rest next to her in-laws, Sally and Ernest Neulander. Their tombstones lay to the right of Grave D. Off to the left were smaller markers for five children unrelated to the Neulanders. They had died in infancy, some on the very day of their birth: Ellen Shaya. Joshua Adam Brodsky. Eli James Lewis. Baby Carson. Baby Dana Emdur. Carol Neulander had never known them, but she might have been pleased to spend eternity with them. After all, she had been a kind and devoted mother of three, and her interest in children had led her to major in child and adolescent psychology in college.

After more prayers were said, the casket was lowered into the ground and the mourners took turns shoveling dirt on it, according to Jewish custom. The thud of earth on the casket's hard surface was intended to remind people of the absolute finality of death. At last, it was time for the ritual recitation of the kaddish, the prayer that asks for peace for the deceased:

"Yisgadal v'yiskadash sh'mai raba, b'olmo deev'ro chir'usai v'yamlich malchusai b'chayeichon uv'yomeichon v'chayai d'chol bit yisroel, ba'agala u'viz'man kariv v'imru: Amen.....

Then, the family turned to pass through two parallel lines of relatives and friends uttering a prayer of consolation: "Ha'makom yenachem et'chem b'toch she'ar avelei tziyon vi'Yerushalayim." ["May the Lord comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."] Finally, Fred Neulander and his children -- Matthew, Benjamin, and Rebecca, all young adults -- left the cold November winds for the comfort of the limousine and the somber journey back to the house where Fred had found Carol's lifeless body. She had still been wearing the gold necklace with six small diamonds that Fred had given her a few years earlier on their wedding anniversary. In eight weeks, they would have celebrated their twenty-ninth anniversary.

On the Tuesday night of Carol's murder, Fred had stayed at the synagogue later than usual. M'kor Shalom was always busy on Tuesdays, with choir practice in the evening and lots of meetings for adults while their kids attended religious classes ...

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The foregoing is excerpted from The Rabbi and the Hit Man by Arthur J. Magida. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

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