Jewish Cantor and His Family resist terrorism, convert attacking Ku Klux Klan leader, 1991

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Timing
Time Period:  
August
1991
to
16 November
1991
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Lincoln, Nebraska
 

In 1991 Larry Trapp was known as the Grand Dragon of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan for the realm of Nebraska. In early 1991, Trapp’s goal was to turn the Nebraska chapter of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a hate group dating back to the late 1800s, into one of the most prominent groups of the KKK in the United States. In order to achieve his goal, he worked to recruit members, intimidate people of color and Jews, and advance his program for complete annihilation of nonwhite people.

One day in June, 1991, Michael Weisser answered his phone only to hear and anonymous voice on the other end say, “You will be sorry you ever moved into 5810 Randolph Street, Jew boy.”

Weisser was the Cantor for the Omaha, Nebraska, Jewish synagogue.

Then, two days later, Julie Weisser pulled an envelope out of the mail addressed to her husband. She opened the package and found a note that read, “The KKK is watching you, scum.”

The package contained brochures and flyers that claimed that the Holocaust was a lie and that Jews were responsible for America’s problems.

After the package arrived, the police told the Weissers that they suspected Larry Trapp was responsible for the call and the mail and warned them that Trapp was dangerous, even though he was severely disabled from long untreated diabetes.

Two months passed after the Weissers’ receipt of Trapp’s hate mail, with no further threats from Trapp. In August 1991, Trapp began broadcasting on a local public channel a white supremacist television show that was produced by Tom Metzger, the founder of the White Aryan Resistance.

Word of the show spread to the Weissers through local newspapers and after tuning in to the first show out of curiosity, Michael Weisser called Larry Trapp on the telephone repeatedly and hung up in order to keep Trapp’s phone lines busy.

When Weisser found out that this tactic was not legal, he began occasionally leaving messages on Trapp’s answering machine. Michael Weisser left messages asking Trapp why he hated him so much. He told Trapp that Hitler passed laws to kill those who were disabled, those like Trapp himself.

One night, after receiving another phone call from Weisser, Trapp picked up the phone and attempted to yell insults at Weisser who had already hung up. In anger, a few days later, Trapp left a flatulent sound on the greeting of his own answering machine. When Weisser next tried to leave a message, he laughed at the sound and said to the machine, “Sounds like the voice of the Master Race to me!”

The next time Weisser called, Trapp picked up the phone and they began a discussion in which Trapp yelled at Weisser to stop harassing him. Weisser responded by saying that he had no intention of harassing Trapp and asked, at his wife Julie’s suggestion, if Trapp needed help getting groceries or anything else, because his legs had been amputated.

The suggestion caught Trapp by surprise. He politely declined and told Weisser not to call again. Weisser told Trapp that he would be in touch.

In the time between August 1991, when Weisser first began calling Trapp, and November, two incidents greatly moved Trapp. First, one of Trapp’s former nurses, Monica Kuhns sent him a letter that explained the concept of Christian love. Later, Trapp was brought to tears after a Vietnamese woman helped him onto the elevator when she noticed he was blind.

On 12 November, Trapp decided to stop airing his show on the public broadcasting station. In an interview about the decision he said that while he was still a member of the Klan, he now blamed the U.S. government and felt it was time to work for equal rights for everyone.

The following day, 13 November, Weisser called Trapp and asked about the changes in his life. Trapp explained that he was trying to make changes, but told Weisser that he did not want his help or friendship.

Two days after this phone call Weisser saw Trapp on television screaming at reporters and using racial slurs. Weisser called Trapp and yelled at him for using such hateful speech and Larry apologized. Later that same night, Trapp called the Weissers explaining that he “wanted out,” but did not know how to get out.

Michael and Julie Weisser then went over to Trapp’s house to talk to him. When they arrived, Trapp handed over his Swastika rings, begging the Weissers to take them away. They gave him a ring in return that they had coincidentally brought as a gift. They spent the night eating dinner together and discussing Trapp’s hate-filled past.

On 16 November 1991, Larry formally resigned from the Ku Klux Klan. He then wrote resignation letters to the other hate groups that he belonged to. After these resignations, he began sending apologies to all of the people he had been harassing. He also contacted law enforcement officials in order to give them all the information he had about the Klan and the actions of its members.

During this process, the Weissers brought Trapp to their congregation, cleaned his apartment, and eventually invited him to move in with them when his health began to fail. Even with his failing health, Trapp tried to persuade other Klan members and incarcerated youth to follow his example.

On 5 June 1992, Larry Trapp converted to Judaism at Michael Weisser’s synagogue, a building he had previously planned to blow up that very summer. He died three months later, holding the hands of Michael and Julie Weisser.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Works Cited

Fernandez, Manny. "A Good Day to Speak of Love, From a Rabbi Who Knows Hate and Forgiveness." The New York Times, 04 Jan. 2009. Web.

Levy, Daniel. "The Cantor and the Klansman." Time Magazine 17 Feb. 1992: n. pag. Print.

Watterson, Kathryn. Not by the Sword: How the Love of a Cantor and His Family Transformed a Klansman. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. Print.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Emily Kluver, 24/02/2014