Commoners vs. Aristocrats

James Rudin

Wednesday, 9:30 am – 11:00 am

2/7/2018- 2/21/2018

3 weeks: $80 members/$100 non-members


How and why did three “Commoners” who came from humble and non-military backgrounds —U.S. Grant, Dwight Eisenhower, and Omar Bradley—reach higher personal and professional goals than three “Aristocrats”—Robert E. Lee, Douglas MacArthur, and George S. Patton—who came from privileged and prominent military families?

We will study the lives and careers of these iconic wartime generals—all of whom graduated from West Point— and explore their similarities and differences in style, leadership and character. We will also analyze how these six men continue to influence America today.

Finally, is there something embedded within the collective American character that is fond of “Commoners” and disdains “Aristocrats?”

Session One: U.S. Grant vs. Robert E. Lee

The once matchless reputation of Confederate general “Bobby Lee,” the son of Revolutionary War hero, “Lighthorse Harry” Lee of Virginia, is currently undergoing a critical change, while his military opponent, “Sam Grant,” the shop keeper’s son from Illinois who became a U.S. president, is being reevaluated in a positive way. What brought about this change? What impact does it mean for contemporary America?

Session Two: Dwight Eisenhower vs. Douglas MacArthur

What were the significant differences between “Ike,” the most prominent American military figure of World War II, and who like Grant was twice elected president, and the charismatic imperious MacArthur who has been called “The American Caesar.” How did a “poor boy” from Kansas surpass the achievements of the general who, at the end of his long career, was fired by President Harry Truman?

Session Three: Omar Bradley vs. George S. Patton

Despite the famous award-winning film bearing his name, George Patton, remains the controversial symbol of a brilliant warrior who could not control his emotions or tame his lust for battle. However, like Eisenhower, Omar Bradley was another “poor boy” from America’s Midwest —Missouri— who achieved greatness. He out ranked Patton and won the profound respect and even the love of the men and women who served under him during World War II. But no one has yet made a popular movie this self-effacing five star general.

Instructor Bio

Rabbi A. James Rudin was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and grew up in Alexandria, Virginia. He attended Wesleyan University and graduated from George Washington University with academic distinction. While in college he was elected to several honorary societies, was a member of the wrestling and track teams and served as a student government officer.

He received his Masters degree and rabbinical ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and later did graduate studies in American History at the University of Illinois. He holds honorary doctorates from Saint Leo University, Saint Martin’s University and HUC-JIR. He is Distinguished Visiting Professor of Religion and Judaica at Saint Leo University.

Rabbi Rudin served congregations in Kansas City, Missouri and Champaign-Urbana, Illinois and was a United States Air Force Chaplain stationed in Japan and Korea. In 1968 he began his career as a member of the American Jewish Committee’s senior professional staff where he served as Director of the Interreligious Affairs Department. He is currently the AJC’s Senior Interreligious Adviser.

A former chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, Rabbi Rudin participated in eleven meetings with Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. He was a papal guest of honor at the 1994 Vatican Concert that commemorated the Shoah.

In April 2008 he was chosen by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops to respond to Pope Benedict XVI’s address to Jewish leaders in Washington, DC. Rabbi Rudin has also participated in historic meetings with the World Council of Churches in Geneva and with Eastern Orthodox Christian leaders in Greece.

He served on the Camp David Presidential Retreat Interfaith Chapel Committee and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission. Rabbi Rudin was a founder of the National Interreligious Task Force on Soviet Jewry and the National Interreligious Task Force on Black-Jewish Relations. He was a founding member of the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, an interdisciplinary body that focuses on bioethical issues and public policy.

Rabbi Rudin is the author or editor of seventeen books and since 1991 has written commentaries for Religion News Service. His latest books, published in 2010 and 2012, are Christians and Jews: Faith to Faith—Tragic Past, Promising Present, Fragile Future and Cushing, Spellman, O’Connor: How Three American Cardinals Transformed Catholic-Jewish Relations. Pillar of Fire, his biography of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, will be published in March 2015.

Rabbi Rudin’s articles have appeared in many newspapers and publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, America, Christian Century, Christianity Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Origins, and many other Christian and Jewish publications and international print media. He has lectured throughout the world and the rabbi has been a frequent guest on numerous radio and television programs including ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, NBC, NPR, PBS and international electronic media.

Rabbi Rudin collects memorabilia of the old Washington Senators baseball team and he is an avid fan of crossword puzzles and American popular music. He and his wife Marcia live on Sanibel Island, Florida. They are the parents of Eve, a rabbi, and Jennifer, a casting and talent director for stage productions, films and television programs. The Rudins are the grandparents of Emma Mollie.