On Lincoln’s birthday, 1966, a young man stood on the bimah of a multi-million dollar synagogue in suburban Detroit and, confronting his audience of 700 with the Colt .32 revolver he would soon use to commit murder and suicide, he announced:
“This congregation is a travesty and an abomination. It has made a mockery by its phoniness and hypocrisy of the beauty and spirit of Judaism. It is composed of people who on the whole make me ashamed to say that I’m a Jew. For the most part it is composed of men, women and children who care for nothing except their vain, egotistical selves. With this act I protest a humanly horrifying and hence unacceptable situation."
This true crime book is a precise and harrowing account of the assassination of Rabbi Morris Adler by 23-year-old Richard Wishnetsky, a Phi Beta Kappa scholar at the University of Michigan and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow bound for the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. A troubled intellectual seeker who turned to violence as his ultimate answer, Wishnetsky knew Rabbi Adler as a learned and charismatic man of considerable veneration, one of the nation’s most prominent religious leaders. The news of the rabbi’s murder sent shock tremors to numerous communities across the U.S. and abroad.
Having interviewed hundreds of those who knew Morris Adler and Richard Wishnetsky, author T.V. LoCicero has fashioned a remarkable portrait of both victim and killer. While loved and admired by many, Rabbi Adler was also aware of a recurrent indictment from some Jewish quarters (particularly the ultra-Orthodox and the alienated young) that charged his Conservative Congregation Shaarey Zedek with leading the way in Detroit to a materialistic betrayal of true Judaic values.
At the same time LoCicero’s narrative explores Wishnetsky’s often frustrating encounters with the paradoxes and complexities of contemporary American life. Despite academic success, he failed to find answers, help or satisfaction in any of the places he searched--family, friendship, education, psychiatry and religion--and settled finally on Rabbi Adler as the appropriate target of his deepest rage.
This book is a multi-faceted window on the 1960s, one of the most turbulent and pivotal periods in the American 20th Century. About Murder in the Synagogue, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and psychiatrist Robert Coles had this to say: “I was absolutely enthralled by it. It’s one of those non-fiction novels that one simply cannot put down."
Bonus: This edition contains an excerpt from T.V. LoCicero’s Squelched: The Suppression of Murder in the Synagogue.