Monday, January 5, 2009

Reform rabbi vs the KKK

NYTimes reports

[...] In 1991, he was living in Lincoln, Neb., with his wife at the time, Julie Michael, and three of their five children. He was then the cantor and spiritual leader of the South Street Temple, the oldest Jewish congregation in Lincoln. One Sunday morning, a few days after they had moved into their new house, the phone rang.

The man on the other end of the line called Rabbi Weisser “Jew boy” and told him he would be sorry he had moved in. Two days later, a thick package of anti-black, anti-Semitic pamphlets arrived in the mail, including an unsigned card that read, “The KKK is watching you, scum.”

The messages, it turned out, were from Larry Trapp, the Grand Dragon of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Nebraska, who kept loaded weapons, pro-Hitler material and his Klan robe in his cramped Lincoln apartment. Then 42, Mr. Trapp was nearly blind and used a wheelchair to get around; both of his legs had been amputated because of diabetes.

In a 1992 interview with Time magazine, Mr. Trapp said he had wanted to scare Rabbi Weisser into moving out of Lincoln. “As the state leader, the Grand Dragon, I did more than my share of work because I wanted to build up the state of Nebraska into a state as hateful as North Carolina and Florida,” he said. “I spent a lot of money and went out of my way to instill fear.”

Rabbi Weisser, who suspected the person threatening him was Mr.Trapp, got his telephone number and started leaving messages on the answering machine. “I would say things like: ‘Larry, there’s a lot of love out there. You’re not getting any of it. Don’t you want some?’ And hang up,” he said. “And, ‘Larry, why do you love the Nazis so much?They’d have killed you first because you’re disabled.’ And hang up. I did it once a week.”

One day, Mr. Trapp answered. Ms. Michael, the rabbi’s wife, had told him to say something nice if he ever got Mr. Trapp on the line, and he followed her advice. “I said: ‘I heard you’re disabled. I thought you might need a ride to the grocery,’ ” Rabbi Weisser said.

Then, one night, Rabbi Weisser’s phone rang again. It was Mr. Trapp. “He said, quote-unquote — I’ll never forget it, it was like a chilling moment, in a good way — he said, ‘I want to get out of what I’m doing and I don’t know how,’ ” Rabbi Weisser said. [...]


  1. But he didn't convert Orthodox!

  2. My first reaction reading this story is to crack up a joke. "what is the difference between Reform rabbis and Orthodox rabbis? Reform rabbis first go to jail and then they become rabbis, Orthodox rabbis first become rabbis and then go to jail"

    On more thoughtful note Mr. Trapp is closer to be a ger tzedek than the Filipinas and the Puerto Rican girls Tropper and the EJF are chasing around, dining and flying around trying to convince them to convert.

  3. Something similar happened to my husband. There was a man who screamed the most horrible anti Semitic things at the men as they entered the synagogue each morning.

    It was very frightening. It turned out that he was slightly retarded and his mother had been employed as a maid in a Jewish home when he was a child. His mother was fired and it plunged the family into poverty for which he blamed the Jews.

    My husband and some of the other men signed him up for Food stamps, Medicaid and collected clothing for him and his mother. They were also able to find day labor for him because he was strong and eager to work. The men apologized for any wrong that another Jew may have committed to him in the past.

    One day my house was robbed and this man saw it and grabbed the criminals and held them until the police came.

  4. Dr. Eidensohn:
    I find this article and the article on self-mutilation interesting, but why are they of interest to you in particular? Are they part of your interests as a psychologist (do I have your profession correct?)?

    One of the things I've been wondering is if there are any Torah sources vis-a-vis behavioral modification institutions. I saw that RaP had a post where he mentioned the Isaac Hersh case -- specifically the machlokis about Tranquility Bay. But as is well known to those who are even remotely familiar with behavioral modification institutions, T-bay is one of the most hardcore in the world. So could a frum man send his kid to Hidden Lake Academy, Second Nature, Three Springs, or a like-minded institution? What about Retorno?

    And would you, as a practicing psychologist, ever consider sending a kid to such an institution? (If you're not practicing, please take the question as a hypothetical. In other words, "If you were practicing...")


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