‘The Rabbi and the Hitman’

/ Source: NBC News

It’s a disturbing truth in the world of crime investigation, that when a woman is murdered, authorities say, very often the killer is her husband or boyfriend. So maybe not surprisingly, when Carol Neulander was found beaten to death several years ago, her husband became the prime suspect — except that he was a rabbi. Read this excerpt from Arthur J. Magida’s book:


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.

(“May your Great Name be magnified and hallowed in the world according to Your will and may Your reign be quickly established, in our own lives and our own day, and in the life of all of Israel, and let us say: Amen.)

“Y’hei shmei raba m’vorach l’alam ul’almenu almaya. Yitborach v’yishtabach v’yitpa’ra v’yitromam v’yitnasei, v’yit’hadar, v’yi’ale v’vit’halal sh’mei d’kud’sha b’rich hu, l’ile min-kol-brichata v’shirata, tush b’chata v’nechemata, da’amiran b’alma, v’imru: Amen.

(“May your great name be blessed for ever and ever! All praise and glory, splendor, exaltation and honor, radiance and veneration and worship to the Holy One of Blessing, even beyond any earthly prayer or song, any adoration or tribute we can offer, and let us say: Amen.)

“Y’hei sh’lama raba min-sh’maya, v’chayim aleinu v’al-kol-yis-roel, v’imru: Amen.

(“May there be great peace from the heavens, and life for us and for all of Israel, as we say: Amen.)

“Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya-aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol yis-ra’el, v’imru: Amen.”

(“May the one who makes peace in the high heavens send peace for us and for all of Israel, as we say: 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...

Excerpted from “The Rabbi and the Hit Man.” Copyright © 2003 by Arthur J. Magida. HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.