Maury Z. Levy

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Dead End at Toms River: A Bizarre Murder Mystery

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980), Uncategorized on February 2, 2011 at 9:41 am

A BLOODY INQUEST INTO THE MUTILATION CAPITAL OF THE COUNTRY
By Maury Z. Levy

ON SUNDAY THE TURKEY BUZZARDS flew low to the pines. You could hear their wings flapping a few hundred 
yards away as they swooped down into the garbage that 
hid in the trees. They are big, lazy birds, the turkey 
buzzards.

They were not an unusual sight to the people who lived 
in the dirty white cottages on Oakwood Drive or to the 
people in the wooden piney shacks on Crescent Avenue. 
Oakwood is a straight arrow off Route 571, a dead-end 
turn from the Phillips 66 station. Crescent is a big loop 
from 571. You pass the shacks first, the ones with the 
Russian names out front in this strange settlement called 
Rova Farms, where the people are peasants who live off 
the land, eating from little vegetable gardens fertilized by 
the dust of the road that passes a few feet from their 
doors.

It’s a very insular community that revolves around the 
big church around the corner on the Cassville-Freehold 
Road, a stately structure topped with big golden onion 
domes. Behind the church is a nice clean cemetery where 
the Russian peasants have buried their dead for almost 
100 years.

You can see the tips of the golden onions from the 
point where Oakwood and Crescent run into each other 
and end. There are traces of a crude dirt road leading off 
that intersection into a hole in the woods. It’s a street 
with no name, a road that’s the width of one car, if you’re 
crazy enough to try to drive it. It’s murder on your wheels.

You curve past old beer cans and rubbish and you wind 
around the giant worn-out truck tires to the blond wood 
Emerson television set with the busted picture tube that 
sits two blocks back in the middle of the road that goes 
nowhere. Dead end.

These woods have been the dumping ground for a lot of things. The trees are very tall and very thick. So most 
people didn’t give a second thought to the turkey buzzards. 
Maybe an early season hunter had left his prey to rot or 
maybe there was something edible in the roadside trash.

But by Wednesday in what had been a very hot and 
humid week, things began to get a little strange. The 
humidity put a heavy lock on the air and a terrible smell 
started coming from the woods. The radio dispatch room 
in the Jackson Township police station got a couple calls 
about it. They sent a man out in a car. He drove up 
Crescent and down Oakwood. He smelled it too.

ON SATURDAY Steve Soltys brought the family down 
from Jersey City. Soltys finished work at 5:00 and came 
home and changed to get the blood off his clothes. He and 
Helene put the two kids and the dog in the car and drove 
to their summer cottage on Oakwood Drive, about eight 
miles west of Lakewood and a short holler from Toms 
River, the Ocean County seat.

While the family unpacked, Soltys let the collie out. 
But Yukee started charging through the woods after rabbits. Steve Soltys, 34, had to run out and get him. He got 
close enough to see the dog had something in his mouth. 
It wasn’t a rabbit. He came up closer and it looked like 
an arm, it had fingers and everything. First he thought it 
was part of a doll. And then he saw the fingernails. They 
were long and well-manicured and were covered with very 
bright red polish. It was a human arm. Read the rest of this entry »

The Coming of Age of Mark Moskowitz: The Bar Mitzvah Story Your Rabbi Doesn’t Want You to Read

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on February 1, 2011 at 9:52 am

By Maury Z. Levy

“BAR MITZVAH,” the rabbi shouted, “is not a verb.” Eddie Golden, who is the leader of Eddie Golden and his Band of Gold, is blowing his horn so loud into the microphone that the rabbi can hardly hear himself, which is an important thing for rabbis since they are usually the only ones who listen.

The people behind him are dancing a freylach, which is something like a hora, which is something like insanity. To do this you need at least 20 people holding hands in a circle going at top speed in different directions around a 70-year-old grandmother doing a Russian Cossack dance on the floor.

Bubby Katz, in her strapless, floor-length, scarlet gown by Eva Melnick, head of Eva Melnick Creations, is shaking a leg or two. “Let’s hear it for Bubby Katz!” Eddie Golden yells. The cousins cheer.

“Bar Mitzvah,” the rabbi shouts, “is a noun. You do not get Bar Mitzvahed. You become a Bar Mitzvah, or you
celebrate a Bar Mitzvah. You do not get Bar Mitzvahed.”

“Hey, get a load of the rabbi here,” Uncle Meyer says. “Hey, Lil, look at this. He got all fapitzed. Look at this 
suit, Lil, it’s just like our Eric’s. Where’s Eric? Eric, the rabbi’s wearing your suit. Where’d you get it, 
Rabbi? You got it at Diamond’s, right? That’s where we 
got Eric’s. Where the hell is that kid? Lil, where’s Eric? I want the rabbi to see his suit.”

“I think he’s in the bathroom,” Aunt Lil says.”I think he’s throwing up.”

“Damn kid. It’s not even his Bar Mitzvah. I’d better go 
find him. Here, Rabbi, have a Seven and Seven. Lil, talk to the rabbi until I get back.”

“I don’t think we’ve met formally, Rabbi. I’m Lil 
Moskowitz, Mark’s aunt. And that was my husband Meyer 
Moskowitz, Mark’s uncle. We both enjoyed your speech 
today at the Temple, especially when you talked about teaching Jewish heritage to these young kids today, Rabbi. 
You don’t know how important that is.

“When we were their age our parents taught us what 
it was to be a Jew. They taught us all the important things about the religion—like how it was a sin to go out 
with Gentiles. But these kids today, you think they 
listen? My own Eric even. Rabbi, last month my Eric 
brought home a girl to us. Rabbi, I’m ashamed to tell you 
this, her name was Carmella. Carmella! Can you believe 
it, Rabbi? You try to teach a kid about Judaism. What would you do, Rabbi?”

Meyer is back. “Lil, I’m gonna kill that kid. I swear I’m gonna kill him. Eric, I tell him, stay away from the bar. You know your stomach. Don’t look for trouble. Drink ginger ale. But no, three whiskey sours he has and now it’s all over his goddamn suit and we’re goin’ home. Lil, I’ll kill him, I swear I will. Oh, excuse us, Rabbi. Something’s come up. We’ve got to go. Nice meeting you,
I’m sure.”

“THE AGE OF THE Bar Mitzvah has varied a little through the centuries,” the rabbi tells a Read the rest of this entry »

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