Broken Vows by Eric Francis (December 2002)

Hair-Trigger Writing Ends in Disappointment
Review by Kim Cantrell

There’s only a handful of excuses I’ll accept for a true crime book being written before the initial trial(s) are complete, and being in a rush to be the first book on a high profile case isn’t one of them.

That said, let me share with you a short synopsis of Broken Vows by Eric Francis:

Rabbi Fred Neulander lived a very busy life. And not all of it had to do with his 4,000 member synagogue in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, or his family.

Outside of his duties of Rabbi, Fred like to dabble in sins of the flesh – of the womanly kind.

On November 1, 1994, Fred came home to find his wife, Carol Neulander, beaten to death on the couple’s living room floor.

It would take investigators almost a decade to have enough evidence to bring the adulterous Rabbi to justice.

And it would all hinge on the word of a man who was a known liar and alcoholic: Leonard Jenoff.

Not to mention Jenoff was also the private investigator Fred had hired shortly after his wife’s murder to solve the mystery of Carol’s homicide.

Broken Vowshas all the makings of an addicting true crime read: sex, adultery, a respected Rabbi, hit men, and murder.

Yet it all falls flat.

On the plus side, the first half of the book is a real page turner as it details the crime, Fred’s indiscretions, and the efforts of police to find a killer (or killers) but then the second half of the book is just a repeated with a trial tossed in.

And when that trial ends with a hung jury, the book concludes with an unspoken “to be continued.”

Whether or not the Rabbi was convicted is a VERY vital part of the story. Why Francis would end on such a note is beyond me, unless (as I suspect) he was attempting to be the first published book on this highly publicized case.

I can’t recommend Broken Vows. If the case interest you, the best I can do is blindly suggest The Rabbi and the Hit Man: A True Tale of Murder, Passion, and Shattered Faith by Arthur J. Magida; or, for a more first person account, you may be interested in And the Flames Did Not Consume Us: A Rabbi’s Journey Through Communal Crisis by Gary Mazo (the Rabbi who took over the synagogue led by Fred Neulander).

Want to read Broken Vows by Eric Francis.  Here’s where you can get it:

Amazon    Barnes and Noble    Abebooks    Indie Bound    Half.com

Updates from this book:

Fred Neulander was convicted following a second trial held in 2003. Many speculate that it was the testimony of his oldest son, Matthew Neulander, which led to the conviction. Neulander avoided the death penalty and was sentenced to serve 30 years as a guest of the New Jersey Department of Corrections. He now spends his days as inmate 375614C at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.

Leonard “Len” Jenoff was sentenced to 23 years for his role in the death of Carol Neulander. He went before a parole board in February 2010 but was quickly denied; not surprising considering thatJenoff had just recanted his testimonyin a January 2009 affidavit that Neulander had hired him to kill his wife. He is currently prisoner 27401A at Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, New Jersey.

Paul Michael Daniels was sentenced to 23 years also for his role in the murder. In June 2010, he was denied parole but he will be given a second chance in September 2014. Due to his mental incapacities, Daniels spends most of his time in the medical unit at Northern State Prison in Newark, New Jersey.

Matthew Neulander accomplished his dream of becoming a doctor and now practices at Medi Weight Loss Clinicin Ballantyne, North Carolina.

Rebecca Neulander-Rockoffnow lives in Chesire, Connecticut.

The youngest son of Fred and Carol Neulander, Benjamin Neulander is now a history teacher at the Allen-Stevenson school in New York City.