A Tumultuous Fall
Rabbi Fred Neulander
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"Though forever saddened by the permanent void in our lives, we look forward to cherishing our many wonderful memories of a warm, generous, fun-loving and loving sister."
-- Carol Neulander's sister, Margaret Miele
REBECCA, BENJAMIN and MATTHEW
surround CAROL NEULANDER
Carol Neulander's sister, Margaret Miele,
briefly addressed a media throng gathered in the Monmouth County Prosecutor's
Office. Standing behind her were her husband, Louis Miele, and her brothers,
Edward and Robert Lidz, and their wives. All three couples attended the trial
every day since it began Oct. 21.
"Now we struggle to find words to express our heartfelt gratitude to the first assistant prosecutor, Jim Lynch, and Sgt. Marty Devlin for their tremendous skill, perseverance and compassion," Miele said.
The Murdering Clergyman
On that November night in 1994, the rabbi said he arrived home from his synagogue, M'Kor Shalom, to find his wife, Carol, sprawled on the couple's parlor floor. The rabbi testified that his wife was covered in blood so he ran from the room and called 9-1-1.
The events of that night would set off eight years of investigation, shocking revelations about the indiscretions of one of New Jersey's noted religious leaders, a mistrial, and finally, a murder conviction. The case made national headlines because of its startling details: a rabbi, a mistress, a murder and a hit man.
Investigators at first had few leads in the slaying of Carol Neulander, a bakery manager and mother of three. But suspicions soon turned to the rabbi, who had been caught lying about a two-year affair he had been having with Elaine Soncini, a Philadelphia radio personality.
The case was coming together for police, who long suspected that the rabbi had arranged to have his wife killed. Prosecutor Lynch argued that Neulander feared losing the affections of Soncini and believed that a divorce would bring him too much embarrassment. Murder, the prosecutor argued, was the rabbi's way out.
In 1998, the rabbi was indicted for murder, but the case was entirely circumstantial. That would all change two years later when, in April 2000, Len Jenoff, a private investigator who was being paid by Neulander to investigate his wife's murder was persuaded by a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter to tell police what he knew about the crime.
During the summer of 1994 the Rabbi told Soncini about nightmares he was having. "He said he was having bad dreams, that violence was coming to Carol," Soncini testified.
Rabbi Neulander also told her that summer, that he predicted "it was going to be a tumultuous fall."
"The Bathroom Man"
Jenoff told investigators and the reporter at a Cherry Hill diner that he and an accomplice, Paul Daniels, killed Carol Neulander -- and that the rabbi had paid him to do it. Jenoff said he gave Daniels a cut of the $18,000 Fred Neulander paid him to kill Carol Neulander and make it look like a botched robbery.
Jenoff, however, was widely known in the suburban Philadelphia community of Cherry Hill as a storyteller. Among other things, according to testimony, he claimed falsely to have been a former CIA agent, a former FBI agent, a "comrade in arms" of President Ronald Reagan, a player in the Iran-Contra Affair and a former police officer. He also falsely told people that he was a candidate for the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, and that he had tried three times to kill Cuban dictator Fidel Castro for the CIA.
Jenoff testified that Neulander's
plan was to be seen at the synagogue while the murder was being carried out
so that he would have an alibi.
Calling his father's plea for mercy "a disgrace," Dr. Matthew Neulander said he was satisfied that his father likely would spend the rest of his life behind bars. Matthew Neulander said he was convinced of his father's guilt after the rabbi testified on his own behalf.
"I sat there and I watched him lie repeatedly and baldly during his testimony, lies that perhaps may not even be evident, probably, to people watching, but lies that I knew because I was there. It really became cemented for me that a man who's innocent ... wouldn't need to tell untruths in this way."
On growing up with Fred Neulander as his father, Matthew Neulander said: "There certainly wasn't any clue, to me, who I think I'm pretty observant, that he was leading a double life or had these inherently evil qualities we now know him to have."
Matthew Neulander said that he wondered about the absence of blood on his father, too.
"He said he was repulsed by what he saw -- too repulsed to go in and see if she was okay."
JAMES LYNCH: Defense council asked you some questions about your professional dealings with people who are overcome with grief -- who have situations when they have to deal with trauma. Do you recall those questions?
MATTHEW NEULANDER: Yes, sir.
JAMES LYNCH: Do you recall him asking you whether people deal with those things in different ways?
MATTHEW NEULANDER: Yes, I do.
JAMES LYNCH: Let me ask you this sir. How many survivors have you encountered in the course of your professional career, who have had to deal with sudden, violent deaths of close family members?
MATTHEW NEULANDER: Many.
JAMES LYNCH: Can you give an approximate number, sir?
MATTHEW NEULANDER: A hundred.
JAMES LYNCH: Of that number, how many of those responded to that trauma and that tragedy, the way your father did?
MATTHEW NEULANDER: None.
JAMES LYNCH: Thank you, sir.
MATTHEW NEULANDER: Absolutely none.
"de minimis non curat lex."
the law does not concern itself with trifles
Leave no congregant unturned
After being found GUILTY of murdering his wife, RABBI NEULANDER who is a sixth generation Rabbi, took the stand, and had the unmitigated gull to quote the Bible and then ask: What did you do with the days of your life? How did you fill your days? How did you make a difference in the world? He goes on to ask three specific questions which beg to be answered.
Were you selfish, or were you generous with your time? Between clandestine smoke breaks with petty criminals, and booty calls with his congregants, RABBI NEULANDER apparently routinely found the time to phone his wife and tell her he loved her. During one of those quick calls, he told his wife not to be surprised if a stranger visits to drop off a package.
Were you using the best parts of your brain, or were you lazy and sloppy? Convinced his wife should die -- FRED NEULANDER, PhD., used his brain to induce an alcoholic, pathological liar and a psychotic drug addict to beat CAROL NEULANDER over the head with a lead pipe in her own living room. Unaware that other people had brains, when questioned about the package -- NEULANDER claimed he had no knowledge of a package delivered by his smoking buddy LEN JENOFF.
Did you have a vision for the community, or were you self-deceiving and looking only inwards? Based on testimony given at his trial, RABBI NEULANDER'S vision of the community was the self-absorbed and frightening vision of a paranoid racist driven by ego, pride and rage. Rabbi Mazo spoke clearly of the disgraced clergyman's arrogance, and narcissism when he said: "He acted on the fantasies and betrayed the trust of thousands."
There's only one word that could begin to describe RABBI NEULANDER'S outrageous sermon from the witness stand: "chutzpah" Jack Guggenheim attempts to define "chutzpah" in a legal context, noting that, in 1999, the word appeared in a U.S. Supreme Court decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia.
Chutzpah is a Yiddish word connoting brazenness. A federal court in the Northern District of Illinois noted in a decision a couple of years ago that chutzpah means shameless audacity; impudence; brass. Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish defines chutzpah as a Yiddish idiom meaning "gall, brazen nerve, effrontery."
But neither English translation can do the word justice; neither definition can fully capture the audacity simultaneously bordering on insult and humor which the word chutzpah connotes. As a federal district court in the District of D.C. noted in 1992 that chutzpah is "presumption-plus-arrogance such as no other word, and no other language can do justice to.''
Guggenheim goes on to include the classic legal definition of chutzpah:
When a person kills his father and mother, then throws himself on the mercy of the court on the grounds that he's an orphan.
A Bathroom Guy's Guide to the Universe
There once was a Rabbi Neulander,
Whose speeches were preached with no candor;
When he reached his demise,
This teacher of lies,
Taught us each, of betrayal and slander.
I'm absolutely aghast at the gruesome events which ended this trial. Nobody wanted the Lying RABBI found guilty more than I, but lethal elocution is cruel and unusual.
I had assumed there would be automatic appeals and hearings upon sentencing. I thought years, even decades would go by before NEULANDER could be subject to lethal elocution. I can't say I truly feel sad about it, but this trial must've been on some kind of super fast-track process, that in some other case, may be far too speedy.
If New Jersey wants to lethally elocute people like NEULANDER, on the spot like this, I'm actually all for it, but I'm not sure it should be televised. Publicly airing the deluded meanderings of a homicidal egomaniac seems to go below even the standard of cruel and unusual, and witnessing FRED NEULANDER'S public lethal elocution this week, was quite possibly damaging to us all, as it bordered on ritual torture.
And the Flames Did Not Consume
"He betrayed his family, his wife, his three children, his synagogue and his religion."
"The intimidation he was able to inflict on others through his intellectual and physical power eventually led to arrogance, perhaps to narcissism; perhaps to hubris. He went beyond the rules that applied to lesser people - the ego trap that has destroyed so many charismatic leaders."
"He acted on the fantasies and betrayed the trust of thousands."
Thoughts, Words, Actions
Kavanah (Heb., intention)
Our intentions seem to bear
heavy the consequences for our actions. Our words and thoughts matter. What
we think about and what we do are connected. This is called kavannah
and it is one of the most important aspects in Judaism. If someone decides
to end the other's life, and then does it -- then he has done more than play
God. He has written himself out of the world. And the Torah demands of the
community to remove that person ourselves, even in the heart of the Temple.
There are no symbols holy enough to lessen the horror of
-- Prepared by Rabbi Shmuel Bowman
RABBI NEULANDER says he never considered divorcing his wife. "My situation with Carol was stable. We had a great family, great children, we had a synagogue, a business. There was no need for me (to divorce)."
Regarding Elaine Soncini, he testified, "I can say I didn't love her. I had no intention of being with her on a permanent basis."
NEULANDER pursued the affair with ELAINE SONCINI because, he says, he and his wife were "physically incompatible." When asked why he then had an affair with someone in addition to Soncini, the RABBI said, "I can't tell you the answer. ... It was selfish and arrogant."
Shortly before the murder, LEN JENOFF showered PAUL MICHAEL DANIELS with thousands of dollars in cash that he said was a down payment on the murder, from the RABBI.
During the summer of 1994 the RABBI told SONCINI about nightmares he was having. "He said he was having bad dreams, that violence was coming to Carol," Soncini testified.
Rabbi Neulander also told her that summer, that he predicted "it was going to be a tumultuous fall."
The Very Best of Fred
Keep Your Mouth Shut and Your Arms Open
By Rabbi Adam Plony, pseudonym of Fred J. Neulander
The RABBI wanted CAROL NEULANDER killed "in the name of Israel."
Fred told MARY LEE ALBAN that he and CAROL had an "open marriage".
Fred is 5-foot-4.
But if a man schemes and kills another man deliberately, take him away from my altar and put him to death.
You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.'
"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the Supreme Court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
|Reverend Hall's Tumultuous
The letters that had been torn up and scattered between the corpses were written in pencil by a woman with wildly romantic sentiments. She promised her love to him forever, and said things like, "Oh, honey, I am fiery today. Burning, flaming love."
Most of the people in Reverend Hall's parish knew before it was made official who the unidentified woman was: Mrs. Eleanor R. Mills, 34, a choir singer and wife to James Mills. Their affair had been rather obvious over the past four years.
M'kor Rabbi Statement
Eight years have passed since the tragic death of Carol Neulander, and the resignation of Rabbi Fred Neulander shortly thereafter. During this long and difficult period, Congregation M'kor Shalom persevered through times of profound sadness and confusion, often in the harsh spotlight of the media. The love and dedication of clergy, lay leadership, and our membership as a whole, have enabled Congregation M'kor Shalom to thrive as a vibrant congregation.
We have reiterated throughout this ordeal our embrace of both justice and compassion, as reflected in the great Biblical teaching of Micah to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God and of Deuteronomy Justice, justice shall you pursue. We also recognized that our American legal code requires that an accused be presumed innocent unless and until found guilty by a jury of one's peers. Now a jury has spoken with one voice. As a congregation that respects the rule of law, we accept its verdict.
As leaders of our congregation, we also want to reiterate our desire to be empathetic friends and supportive listeners. We are here with open hearts and open doors. Our hope and prayer is that all those touched by this tragedy will now begin to know some measure of the healing peace we call shalom. In the words of the healing prayer we recite at every service: May the Source of strength help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing.
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