THE RABBI AND THE HIT MAN: A True Tale of Murder, Passion, and the Shattered Faith of a Congregation

Arthur J. Magida, Author . HarperCollins $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-621067-4

A charismatic but twisted rabbi hires a poor nebbish to kill his wife so he can live happily with his favorite mistress (of four): it sounds like bad crime fiction, but it's the true tale of Rabbi Fred Neulander, which grabbed headlines from New York City to Philadelphia until the rabbi's conviction (after a mistrial) last year. Magida tries not too convincingly to give this luridly fascinating story a larger significance by examining the loneliness that afflicts longtime rabbis and citing a study of clergymen who engage in affairs with congregants (Neulander is a "Dark King," who "uses his charm and charisma to convince congregants that he has 'special abilities' "); the author is more successful in considering the painful and divisive impact of Neulander's crime on the South Jersey congregants who had adored their brilliant, ebullient rabbi. But journalist Magida (Prophet of Rage: A Life of Louis Farrakhan) is neither a penetrating portraitist nor a prose stylist. Neulander's outsize personality, rooted in ambition and ego, does come through. But Magida doesn't seem to have had access to the rabbi (and the lack of source notes leaves it unclear); sometimes he tells readers what Neulander thought or felt; other times, he relies on "maybe" and "apparently." Carol, Neulander's wife, remains a cipher, and there are frustrating gaps—two of Neulander's mistresses are virtually absent here, as are two of his three grown children, whose anguish one can only imagine. (May 19)

FYI:HarperCollins crashed this through so publication would coincide with the airing of a two-hour NBC Dateline special in mid-May.

Reviewed on: 04/21/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
Show other formats
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-06-175068-7
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-06-143874-5
Paperback - 311 pages - 978-0-06-093561-0
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-06-143870-7
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 336 pages - 978-0-06-143872-1
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Email Address


Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.