Mathew Goldberg


Fishbein keyed Rabbi J’s Subaru as it collected ragweed outside the garden center. Or, more accurately, he knifed the car using the souvenir pocketknife he’d discovered at a sidewalk shop on the Buda side of the Danube. The smooth grain of the handle conjured Magyars leaping head-first into scimitars. Fishbein traversed the driver’s side of the car and faked a phone call, dragging the squealing blade across the shiny, crimson hatchback—a new-model Subaru that fit an NGO-worker better than a man who’d spent the last ten years behind bars.

Earlier this Saturday, at Temple Beth Shalom, Fishbein said yahrzeit for Mark Susskind and spied Rabbi J two rows in front of him, J reading and chanting as if nothing had happened. J wasn’t a rabbi anymore, but Fishbein still thought of him as one. And even though Fishbein hadn’t seen J since Fishbein quit Hebrew school in seventh grade, he recognized the man right away. A cheap, polyester suit hung loose from J’s shoulders, the top of J’s spine bent into a stoop, and a black yarmulke floated in a lake of bare scalp. J used to be a titan; then again, in middle-school, anyone over five-eight was a giant. Back then, J had a red, unruly beard touched by fire, but now, his beard and hair were both thin and gray. The early April sun gleamed through a ribbon of stained glass, and J mouthed Ein Kamokha while his long fingers trembled over the words in his prayer book. Fishbein shut his siddur and squeezed his fingers white. 

After the service, Fishbein waited in the synagogue’s lot, then tailed J through Olney, Maryland. J drove slowly, signaling well ahead of turns, stopping fo