CAMDEN, N.J. — The mistress of a rabbi charged with killing his wife testified Tuesday that he once told her about a dream in which “violence was coming” to his spouse and that she ultimately feared for her life.
Rabbi Fred Neulander, 60, is accused of arranging the bludgeoning death of his wife Carol in 1994 so he could pursue the affair with Elaine Soncini, a former Philadelphia radio personality. He is charged with murder and conspiracy.
Elaine Soncini said she met Neulander the day her husband, Ken Garland, died in December 1992. After the funeral, she testified, the rabbi asked if they could meet for lunch.
They were having “relations” within two weeks, she said — either at her house during lunch or in his office at Congregation M’kor Shalom, the temple he founded with his wife in wealthy Cherry Hill, southeast of Philadelphia.
Defense lawyer Jeffrey Zucker acknowledged to jurors that the rabbi had an affair, but said his client is not on trial for adultery. Soncini said the relationship was immoral and she accepted responsibility for it.
Soncini, who didn’t look at Neulander as she testified, said the two exchanged expensive gifts and spoke as many as 10 times a day. She said she told Neulander at one point in 1994 about bad dreams she’d been having and he told her about some bad dreams of his own.
“He dreamed that violence was coming to Carol,” she said.
Carol Neulander was beaten to death with a metal pipe in her living room as her husband was at synagogue. A few months later, Neulander resigned as senior rabbi, citing unspecified moral indiscretions.
Prosecutors later identified Neulander as a suspect and Soncini acknowledged the affair, saying she ended it after learning he was suspected of arranging his wife’s death.
Since then, former private investigator Leonard Jenoff and another man have confessed to the slaying. Both men pleaded guilty to manslaughter and have agreed to testify against Neulander.
Soncini said she considered it a sign when Neulander came into her life just as her husband was dying and ended up converting to Judaism.
But she said she decided she needed to make changes in her life and told the rabbi their relationship would end by the end of 1994. She said the rabbi insisted they would be together by her birthday in mid-December.
Soncini also said Neulander called her to his office less than two weeks after his wife’s Nov. 1 slaying and told her he would marry her “as soon as appropriately possible.”
She said he told her: “Trust me, when God closes a door, He opens a window.”
She said when she was questioned by investigators Dec. 5, she began to fear for her own safety.
“I was afraid Fred Neulander might kill me, as a matter of fact,” she said, “because I didn’t know what had transpired” the night Carol Neulander was killed.