Israel at war, Europe in political turmoil–it’s no surprise that Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe and at home in the USA. But will “they” really go so far as to attack our communities? In France, they have. But we fought back.
So, what’s a Jew to do? I say we follow the Betar and JDL model of a community wide defensive mindset featuring our youngest learning examples of Jewish self defense and deterrence and utilizing that knowledge to go on to learning Krav Maga and yes, marksmanship.
Whether you are a conservative voting, arms bearing pro Israel Jew like me, or a bleeding heart liberal to be found among the ranks of J Street, we can all agree on one simple point: Our lives are not worth risking waiting for the response time of police forces who may harbor anti Semites in their departments ranks.
It is therefore time to draw our line in the sand, even in America where while less frequent, anti Semitic attacks occur. Recall the gunman who opened fire on the Pacific Northwestern synagogue last year, for example. When I was twelve I went to Shabbat service with my grandmother, only to leave after services to a car driving by and hurling garbage at us while calling us kikes.
Many who read this will think the JDL and Betar are terror groups and should not be copied, but to them I counter with the sad fact that events in Europe and even some in America have demonstrated that they are a necessity in the diaspora. Had the JDL and Betar not gathered intelligence within the Arab crowd that some would go to the synagogue I believe a twenty first century pogrom would have occurred.
So what next?
There are steps that can be taken now to begin defending our Shuls, in the hopes that we will never need to. Religious centers did not need defended in America like the one in France since Christians fought off raiding natives with Winchesters in the 1890s. With any luck things will stay that way, but after Sabbath services are over, discuss amongst your community and with the Rabbi if there is any plan to counter an attack on the building or against the attendees during services in place. Gauge the support level of taking such initiatives where lacking. If the community accepts the need, form your defense team.
Methods of Self Defense (Armed or Otherwise)
In areas where the right to bear arms is infringed by unconstitutional laws, convert vacant Hebrew classrooms into Krav Maga classes. The United States Krav Maga Association can provide trainers if none in the community can instruct it. Where the Shul itself has no classrooms or wants no part in training its defenders, Studios can be found in every major city with certified instructors, many former IDF or US Military, many Jewish. Betar in Paris used an attic. There is nothing illegal about assembling to practice martial arts, be creative.
Krav is the selected discipline because it is uniquely “ours,” developed by the Irgun and Haganah for what would become the IDF, it is now widely used by militaries and militias around the world and teaches self reliance and the defensive weaponization of every limb and object. Even where community members can be armed or called to arms, this fighting discipline is a must have.
Where there is a right to bear arms, all adult (religious definition) men and women of physical fitness should learn marksmanship within the law. Minors should be focused on rifle maintenance and shooting, the rest on both rifles and where applicable pistols. Members of the community can easily assist in this endeavor in America, and training our fellow Jews to defend themselves from persecution is a mitzvot.
The easiest rifles to obtain are Mausers, Mosin Nagants, Garands, Enfields, and SKS’. Where legal, AK47s and AR-15 type semi automatic arms are second to none. Examples of these can all be found for less than $600, in some cases less than $200, anywhere in America. They all share one thing in common: aside from being great for hunting, they’re battle proven and reliable. When the lives of Bubbie Edelstein and her six kids and grand kids are on the line, this is a good thing.
In applying self defensive force, the Jewish law of an eye for an eye is a good metaphor. Meet armed assaults with armed defense, meet fists with Krav Maga. If the police are present leave the guns locked up, if they are not and the Shul has been hostilely entered, use common sense self defense measures as if defending your home. When under attack, members who do not double as security task force should go with the Rabbi into the safest area until the defenders or police can escort them all to safety.
When the smoke clears and your community is safe, barring an aggressive DA seeing the defenders as anything but, life will continue to go on. If charges are filed against those defending their Shul, it is better to be judged by 12 than carried off by 6.
If nothing else, I hope this article spreads awareness of the need for our people to have the what if discussion within the confines of the community. I hope the words of Kahane, “for every Jew a .22” are heard, I pray we never need to use self defense to protect our place of worship, but I pray stronger that if we do, we live true to our forefathers’ promises of “Never Again.”
(Permission to reproduce this article for Jewish Community and other free usage is irrevocable. Media inquiries or other interviews can be addressed to me.)