My "Other Life"
Published on April 13, 2008 By Larry Kuperman In Religion

I just finished teaching my Adult Education class for the year. It was truly fun, truly exhausting. We had eight sessions covering pre-history from the time of Abraham and going through the modern Jewish-American experience. I wrote about 120 pages of notes. We covered about 4000 years.

We started off with definitions of what it has meant to be a Jew and what it means today. There was a lot of Bible discussion, a lot of contemporary archaeolgical works cited. My goal was for a re-examination of Jewish identity.

I had a lot of "second generation" students as I liked to call them. I mean that I had taught their kids in Sunday School and now the parents were attending my class. We Jews thrive on abuse.

I got a lot of older folks attending. The median age for today's class, for example, was probably around 50. I made a new friend, a true gentleman who survived three concentration camps. Next year, I hope to have him back as a speaker.

The class attracted more non-Jews than I expected. One of my proudest moments came after my class on Judaism and Christianity. An older gentleman came up to me and began by saying "I am a Lutheran minister..." I have to tell you that I froze for a moment. I had just quoted from Martin Luther's pamphlet "On The Jews and Their Lies" one of the most terrible anti-Semitic works ever written and I wasn't sure where this conversation was going. He went on to say "and I am going to recommend that everyone take your class" and I started to breath again.

I quoted from Old Testament (Torah), Talmud, New Testament and the Qu'ran. I like original sources. I read Sermon on the Mount in a Secular Jewish class...perhaps the first time that ever happened.

I covered as much as I could. Today's class on the American Jewish experience began with the arrival of the first Jews in America in 1654, covered the first synagogues, Haym Solomon and the American Revolution, Washington's visit to the Touro Synagogue, Judah Benjamin and Joseph Seligman during the Civil War, the Lower East Side, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, Schiff and the Russian Revolution, Henry Ford and Father Coughlin and the rise of American Anti-Semitism, the role of Jews during the First World War, the US and the Jews during the Second World War, the Freedom Riders, the House Un-American Activities Committee, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, the Jewish comedians including Lenny Bruce and the Jewish influence on Punk Rock. The old folks were shocked to learn that Lou Reed and Joey Ramone were Jewish.

Now that its over....I can't wait for next year.

PS: The link posted has most of my lecture notes (except this last one) available in PDF form.



on Apr 14, 2008

I like history and I find Jewish history very interesting myself.  I can see by what you're doing here, I have lots to learn still about this subject.  My expertise, if you call it that, is centered mostly around Biblical Jewish History either directly or indirectly related.

As far as Luther is concerned, I know he did say some terrible things about the Jews but he wasn't an anti-semite by any means.  He said some nasty things about many others as well and it was directly related to how they treated Christ, whether Jew or not. 

 I'm not Lutheran but have read much about him over the years to know that while a great man, he was very controversial and outspoken for sure.  Even though he escaped the cluthes of the powerful Roman Catholic Church in the 1500's he still carried some of their ways with him.  Remember back then there was nothing else.   But if it weren't for him daring to protest against the the CC, I'm not so sure the Jews would still be flourishing today.   All non-Jews would be Catholics and there was no great love between the two. 

Check out this link.  It may help you on upcoming research especially when it comes to Luther and the Jews.


on Apr 14, 2008

The Evangilical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA, is the largest Lutheran sect in the US) have for along time acknowlged what Luther did to the Jews was wrong.  Their confermation classes spend a good amount of time on the subject.

on Apr 14, 2008

I take Corrie Ten Boom's opinion. The Jews are the chosen people of God, and we should help them.

on Apr 14, 2008

KFC, have you actually read Luther's pamphlet, which is available on line, or are you so convinced of your position beforehand that you don't need to read it?

Here are some quotes from Martin Luther:

In an earlier work, That Jesus Christ was born a Jew, Luther advocated kindness toward the Jews, but only with the aim of converting them to Christianity: what was called Judenmission. When his offer was rejected, he turned hostile.

He argued that the Jews were no longer the chosen people, but were "the devil's people." They were "base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth."The synagogue was a "defiled bride, yes, an incorrigible whore and an evil slut ..." and Jews were full of the "devil's feces ... which they wallow in like swine." He advocated setting synagogues on fire, destroying Jewish prayerbooks, forbidding rabbis from preaching, seizing Jews' property and money, smashing up their homes, and ensuring that these "poisonous envenomed worms" be forced into labor or expelled "for all time." He even seemed to sanction murder, writing "We are at fault in not slaying them."


Even the article that you cite has Luther saying “we must not suffer them to remain.” In other words, if they hold true to their religion, Luther advocates genocide.

But forget words, look at the actions of Luther's followers. Hitler often cited Luther, calling him one of the three great men in history. Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass and the beginning of open and systematic persecution of the Jews, took place on 10 November — Luther's birthday.

I would also suggest that you read up a bit on the history of your religion. During the Peasant's War in 1524 Luther said "Therefore let everyone who can, smite, slay, and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel." He was talking about fellow Christians here.

Nuns were raped in public to the cheers of the crowd.

So much for "Blessed is the peace maker...."

If I may offer a personal note, for someone who purports to be a seeker after knowledge, you only read (or at least cite) works that agree with your preconceived notions. That is both hypocritical and sad.


on Apr 14, 2008
Geesh Larry....I was being nice to you, thinking I was giving you some help and you, I can see lashed out at me for what? Making a comment? I'm not allowed to have an opinion? So I guess I know how I'd do in your class.

would also suggest that you read up a bit on the history of your religion. During the Peasant's War in 1524 Luther said "Therefore let everyone who can, smite, slay, and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel." He was talking about fellow Christians here.

are you going to Catholic sites for this? Just curious.

Not quite during the war did he say this. Luther's “Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants” was actually published after the peasants war. The treatise was delayed, and thus did not have a role during the war. The German nobility were not "spurred by Luther's words." They were "spurred" by the peasants who strove towards anarchy and civil unrest.

One cannot apply Twenty-First Century standards to medieval people. Countless arguments indicting Luther can be dismissed with this realization. This is not to excuse Luther’s words or behavior, but only to suggest that Luther was not a speech-sensitive democratic American with a bent towards some poorly defined notion of “tolerance.” To dismiss Luther’s theology for his comments on the Peasant’s war is an example of historical anachronism. Luther’s attitude toward the peasants demonstrates that he was a medieval man. It does not demonstrate his theology was somehow responsible for civil unrest, the blueprint for anarchy, or demonstrative of a sub-Christian morality.

To indict Luther with no study on this issue is simply unfair. Luther first published “The Admonition to Peace” (prior to the peasant’s war). In the first section, Luther blames the princes and rulers for the unstable state of affairs. Luther said to them:

"We have no one on earth to thank for this disastrous rebellion, except you princes and lords, and especially you blind bishops and mad priests and monks, whose hearts are hardened, even to the present day. You do not cease to rant and rave against the holy gospel, even though you know that it is true and that you cannot refute it. In addition, as temporal rulers you do nothing but cheat and rob the people so that you may lead a life of luxury and extravagance. The poor common people cannot bear it any longer. The sword is already at your throats, but you think that you sit so firm in the saddle that no one can unhorse you. This false security and stubborn perversity will break your necks, as you will discover."

“Well, then, since you are the cause of this wrath of God, it will undoubtedly come upon you, unless you mend your ways in time.”

“If it is still possible to give you advice, my lords, give way a little to the will and wrath of God. A cartload of hay must give way to a drunken man—how much more ought you to stop your raging and obstinate tyranny and not deal unreasonably with the peasants, as though they were drunk or out of their minds Do not start a fight with them, for you do not know how it will end. Try, kindness first, for you do not know what God will do to prevent the spark that will kindle all Germany and start a fire that no one can extinguish.”

Also previous to the peasant’s war, Luther ventured into peasant lands to preach against the false prophets that were leading them into rebellion. They heckled him and interrupted his sermons. He mentions he was lucky to get away from them without injury or being killed. It was after this encounter he wrote “Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants.” Even in this, Luther was only exhorting “bad” peasants, or those who were using the gospel as a means of causing political chaos. Luther was convinced that the peasants that had produced the “Twelve Articles” were lies presented in the name of the gospel. It is against those peasants that were using the gospel to cause rebellion that Luther opposed. To put it bluntly, they were the devil’s agents, leading people away from the gospel. Luther said:

“The peasants are not content with belonging to the devil themselves; they force and compel many good people to join their devilish league against their wills, and so make them partakers of all of their own wickedness and damnation. Anyone who consorts with them goes to the devil with them and is guilty of all the evil deeds that they commit, even though he has to do this because he is so weak in faith that he could not resist them. A pious Christian ought to suffer a hundred deaths rather than give a hairsbreadth of consent to the peasants’ cause."

As you can see, he made some very bold brash comments AGAINST non-Jews. He was AGAINST all who were AGAINST Christ. He didn't mince words but he was not just against the Jews.

on Apr 15, 2008
Hey Larry,

Thanks for the External Link. I look forward to spending some time looking at that resource. Probably won't be till after Pesach.