God and Guns in the Synagogue
Jews across America choose between self-defense and gun control.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
There are two types of synagogues: those that believe in G-d and those that believe in government.
After the mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the government synagogues turned to the government with calls for gun control. And those that believe in G-d, turned to the Almighty.
And then, trusting in the Almighty to stand with them against danger, they went out and got their guns.
Morning services at the synagogue these days begin and end with guns, with talk of tactical courses, firing ranges and concealed carry permits. “If someone comes to kill you, get up early to kill him first,” the Gemara, the Babylonian Talmud, that massive encyclopedic work codifying Jewish law, advises.
In synagogues across America, the teachers, actuaries and small businessmen rising early for morning prayers are preparing for a mass shooting attack. Every synagogue I have been to lately has members who carry concealed firearms. Members are attending security courses, training to identify, disarm or kill active shooters, while also preparing for the ugly aftermath of another synagogue massacre.
CPR courses. Stop the bleed. Triage.
While one faction of American Jews, the noisesome lefty one, shouts about gun control, the quieter, religious one, is choosing self-defense over gun control, and preparing to face another attack.
After the Pittsburgh shooting, the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco recycled a gun control tract from 1999 warning that, “14 young people below the age of 20 are killed by guns in this country every day”. That talking point about inner city gang violence had nothing do with the mass shooting of unarmed Jewish worshipers, but establishment politics tend to run on lefty autopilot.
But meanwhile in South Philly, far from San Fran, but all too close to the Pittsburgh massacre, religious Jews were going out and buying guns.
“I’m a daughter of a Holocaust survivor,” a 61-year-old Jewish woman was quoted as saying. “I lost all my aunts and uncles in the Holocaust, and I’m going to go down fighting. I’m not walking into a gas chamber. I’m not going to stand there like a sitting duck… and get shot at. I refuse.”
Yonatan Stern, an IDF veteran running tactical training courses at Cherev Gideon (Gideon’s Sword), suggested that the demand is coming from the more politically and religiously conservative Jews.
Meanwhile at a lefty protest in Philly, Rebecca Hornstein, a member of the If Now Now anti-Israel hate group, who backed anti-Semites like Keith Ellison and Linda Sarsour, claimed that nobody wanted guns.
But quite a few real Jews did.
The debate over firearms in synagogues has reached into Jewish communities from New York City to Philadelphia, and from Chicago to Colorado Springs, where Mel Bernstein of Dragon Arms offered local Rabbis in the area free handguns or AR-15s, along with training and ammunition.
“You have to have the tool to fight back, and this is the tool,” the Jewish gun store owner said.
“The 97-year-old Holocaust survivor did not have good people that carry firearms during the Holocaust. But there are good people that carry firearms in American now,“ Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the former head of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, declared. “They should bring them inside with them to protect the people who are there.”
“If you are a Jewish police officer and you are off duty, when you come to worship, you should come with your handgun. If you are a Christian police officer, when you are off duty,” he urged in a press conference outside a Jewish institution, “come with your handgun.”
“No. No. No,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted. “This is not how we heal and move forward.”
Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an Orthodox Jewish politician from Brooklyn, however endorsed Adams’ message and announced, “I am registering immediately for a gun license. And I encourage other Jews to do so to protect their institutions and synagogues.”
David Pollock, the director of public policy and security at the New York Jewish Community Relations Council, however insisted that guns wouldn’t work. “Having armed guards is not a panacea.”
Rabbi Gary Moskowitz, a former NYPD officer and martial arts expert, who offers firearms training to Rabbis, has urged every congregation to arm its members.
“They tell me, ‘It’s not the Jewish way,’” he argued. “How can the rabbis say that it’s not the Jewish way when we just need to look at the Bible to see how David fought the Philistines?”
When Moskowitz had previously proposed allowing congregants in New York City to carry guns, he met with a cold response from local Democrats.
“We need fewer, not more, guns on the street, period,” City Councilman Mark Levine had insisted. “This would make us less safe, not more safe.”
But after Pittsburgh, unarmed synagogues increasingly don’t feel safe.
In Chicago, Jonathan Burstyn, the son of a volunteer policeman, guards his synagogue on the Sabbath and provides firearms training through Chi-Defense. A photo posted by Burstyn at the 2018 NRA Annual Meeting shows a group of Orthodox Jews touting some serious artillery.
In Virginia, Edward Friedman, the editor-in-chief of the NRA’s Shooting Illustrated magazine, carries a concealed weapon to a Chabad Orthodox synagogue with the permission of the Rabbi.
“It’s something that’s incredibly important to me, and I think it should be to every single practicing Jew who goes to synagogue,” Friedman said.
At Temple Sholom, a small Reform synagogue in Springfield, Ohio, Rabbi Cary Kozberg took down the gun-free-zone sign. “Some realized that a gun-free zone can be an invitation.”
“I’m so not advocating that every Jewish person who goes to synagogue walk in with a gun,” he said. “But there are people who are OK with that, and those people need to be listened to.”
While an out-of-touch secular establishment still claims to speak for Jews on gun control, the growing number of religious Jews are far more comfortable with firearms. And after Pittsburgh, more places like Temple Sholom are willing to question the suicidal fanaticism with which the Left clings to gun control.
The choice between self-defense and gun control is at also a choice between dependency and independence. It’s the quintessential dilemma out of which the United States of America was born.
And more Jewish organizations are stepping forward to advocate for the Second Amendment.
“With all due respect, singing songs, lighting candles and posting the phrase ‘Never Again’, regardless of the number of exclamation points, is not going to stop anyone from killing Jews,” Doris Wise, the founder of Jews Can Shoot, wrote. “Fear of being shot by armed Jews. That’s what will stop them.”
“Self-defense is a God-given right. Here in America - all of America - we have the very good fortune to have the Second Amendment. Honor it, yourselves and all good people by making use of it.”
Jews Can Shoot is one of a number of rising Jewish organizations that connect Jewish civil rights to the right to bear arms.
The idea is not new to Jewish history.
Zionism began not with irrigating the desert, but with arming vulnerable Jewish populations. It’s a story that traverses Jewish history and goes back all the way to the very dawn of the Jewish monarchy.
When Shaul was anointed as the first Jewish king, the Philistines had disarmed the Jewish population leaving them without even a blacksmith, worrying, ”Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears” (1 Samuel :13:19), until King Shaul and his son, Yonatan, were said to have received spears from heaven.
Then they led the rebellion against Philistine rule and created the first Jewish kingdom.
After the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile, the Book of Nehemiah relates that when the Arabs came to besiege Jerusalem vowing to kill the returning exiles and end the rebuilding of the Second Temple, the Prophet Nehemiah assembled the people behind the wall with “swords, spears and bows.”
And as they built the Temple, of which the present synagogues are only lesser models, struggling to raise the wall against the Arab invaders, they “worked with one hand, and held their weapon with the other”.
Today, the synagogues that believe in G-d, Jews are taking the prophet’s advice. “Do not fear them, remember the Great and Awesome G-d, fight for your brethren, for your sons and daughters, for your wives and your houses.” (Nehemiah 4:8)
And after morning prayers, the men leave still talking of active shooter training and firing ranges.