Community Briefs: Neulander Musical, New Megillah, More

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Rabbi Fred Neulander, Exponent archives

Musical About Rabbi Fred Neulander Planned
A playwright from the Philadelphia area has written a musical about Rabbi Fred Neulander, the Cherry Hill, New Jersey, rabbi who was convicted in 2001 of having his wife, Carol, murdered seven years earlier, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Neulander, who at the time was believed to be the first United States rabbi tried for murder, is serving 30 years to life.

The Gefen Playhouse in Los Angeles is slated to debut “A Wicked Soul in Cherry Hill” by Matt Schatz, who grew up in Cherry Hill, where Neulander lived and worked, from June 21 through July 24.


The playhouse website describes the show thusly: “On a November night in 1994, a murder was committed in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. In this true-crime story told completely through song, a tight-knit Jewish community gathers to recount, remember, and reckon with the details of what happened in — and to — their town. Written with humor and chutzpah, this wholly original musical asks what it does to our souls when our leaders fall from grace.”

Several songs were posted recently on social media, then removed.

Schatz said the show isn’t a comedy, nor is it a Broadway-style extravaganza.

Schatz said it was his job as an artist to ask questions.

“The rabbi was telling people how to be a person, how to be a Jew, and he turned out to be evil,” Schatz told the Inquirer. “How do we reckon with that?”

The congregants of M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, which Neulander founded in 1974, aren’t happy with the planned production.

“We know nothing about the content of the play,” congregation President Drew Molotsky said in a statement. “This is our history. It involves our friends and our community, and it is very serious to us. To make light of it or to exploit it for entertainment value is not something we will ever condone.”

Rabbi Writes Megillah
Senior Rabbi Lance J. Sussman of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel wrote a new Megillah entitled “The Purim Story.”

The Megillah was written for use at home or in the synagogue and features new, original artwork by Marlene D’Orazio Adler, the chair of the KI Temple Judea Museum Artists Collaborative.

“The Purim Story” presents an easy-to-understand version of the “Scroll of Esther” and includes illustrations that aid in the telling of the Purim story. It includes a glossary of terms related to the story and holiday of Purim.

“There is a need for a new presentation of the Megillah precisely at this very moment because of the rise of antisemitism,” Sussman said. “The holiday of Purim has helped Jews navigate the emotional stress of antisemitism for centuries. Purim is also fun. It’s our most joyous holiday and in these challenging times, it is very important to find ways to celebrate Judaism and affirm our heritage.”

The book is available on Amazon as an e-book, softcover and at the KI office.

Statewide Forum on Hate, Extremism Planned for Feb. 22
Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, along with other Jewish Federations in Pennsylvania, the Anti-Defamation League, Secure Community Network and the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, will host a daylong forum to address hate and extremism on Feb. 22.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. via Zoom.

Individual Zoom sessions will focus on topics such as securing religious institutions, legislative advocacy and action and talking to children about acts of bias and violence. Each session will be hosted as an individual Zoom meeting and require separate registrations.

For details, visit jewishphilly.org/get-involved/ or contact Jason Holtzman at [email protected]

Eddie Bruce, Courtesy of Eddie Bruce

Eddie Bruce to Channel Tony Bennett at Ardmore Music Hall
Longtime bandleader and cabaret performer Eddie Bruce will play the music of Tony Bennett at the Ardmore Music Hall at 3 p.m. on Feb. 27.

He will be joined by pianist Dean Schneider’s trio and jazz tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna.

Programs featuring Bennett have long been a part of Bruce’s repertoire, although the venue of a rock music hall is a bit unusual. Tickets start at $20.

2 COMMENTS

  1. “Musical About Rabbi Fred Neulander Planned”
    Is it wise to make this musical specifically about this incident ? Seems cruel. Are the congregants to feel shamed that they had selected this man as their spiritual leader? I can fathom a discussion or symposium on the topic, perhaps, but somehow a musical seems a bit crass.

  2. Is this a joke…..Mel Brooks gone wild? (Remember Springtime for Hitler?).
    OR Immersive Depression: .Sweeney Todd the Musical meets Sylvia Plath.
    Maybe it could work as an opera or Greek Chorus :R. Strauss with Salome’s dysfunctional family, but as a pop B-way musical here,, I give it a hard pass. Let sleeping dogs snooze in Cherry Hill. Insensitive to say the least.

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