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Gun Ownership: A Shift in American Jewish Thought

Note to reader: I published this article 6 months prior to The Slaughter of October 7. Unfortunately, it is more relevant today.

The rise of Jewish gun ownership challenges traditional beliefs and confronts rising antisemitism.

The American Jewish community has a long history of broad opposition to civilian firearm ownership.

This curiosity aligns with reform Jewish progressive thought. It correlates with the Christian-based philosophy, “Turn the other cheek,” a philosophy contrary to Jewish history, scripture, dogma, and survival.

The UnJewish ideologies of “progressive” democrats remain the perplexing and self-destructive choice of many of today’s Jewish American voters. With congressional kapos like Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Michigan’s Andy Levin, it’s no wonder that Antisemitic tropes flourish, hatred of Jews fester and condemnation of Israel echoes within our halls of justice. Perhaps Lady Justice needs her blindfold removed. Jewish loathing of fellow Jews epitomizes Pogo’s dictum, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” (1)

Despite the unprecedented antisemitism exuding from the democratic party, Jews continue to vote for and make excuses for Antisemitic anti-gun representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar as well as the sixteen democrats who voted NOT TO CONDEMN BDS. Among these sixteen, six had hoped to harness the 2020 democratic nomination for president! A Shonda indeed.

Now for some good news: According to a recent PEW Research Center survey 75% of orthodox Jews identify as republican, and the largest cohort of Jewish-voting republicans are those under thirty. (2)

According to Edieal J. Pinker, Deputy Dean at Yale University, there has been and will continue to be a major increase in the percentage of American Jews who identify as Orthodox and those who identify as theologically and politically liberal will drop significantly. (3)

An explanation of this paradigm shift in political ideology among our Jewish youth is the fact that 85% of Jews between the ages of 18 and 29 have been victims of antisemitism.

When did Jewish opposition to our much-needed self-defense, dominate Jewish thought?

PONDER OUR HISTORY

When we escaped the wrath of Pharoah in Exodus 13:18, Moses and, “…the children of Israel were armed when they went up out of Egypt,”

Long before David confronted Goliath, he was described as one, “…skillful in playing (the lyre), a man of valor, and a man of war.”

At the conclusion of the Purim story the Jews amass an arsenal to defend themselves.

Judas Maccabee, with the foresight of a soothsayer, must have prophetically dreamt of the 1st and 2nd Constitutional amendments. King Antiochus’ actions were exactly what the First Amendment prohibits. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

Antiochus’ Jewish subjects underwent obligatory Hellenization, were forced to set up altars to the Greek gods, the possession of a Torah was punishable by death and circumcision was outlawed.

The Maccabees clung tightly to the Second Amendment’s ruling by forming, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

“THOU SHALT NOT KILL? SAYS WHO?

Antigun activists vehemently opposed to the 2nd Amendment maliciously misquote the 6th Commandment. Not The Lord Almighty, nor our matriarchs, patriarchs, prophets, or priests had ever said, “Thou shall not kill.”

The sixth commandment clearly commands, “Thou shall not murder” (Shemot/Exodus 20:13) using the Hebrew word for murder (Tirtzach), as opposed to the Hebrew word for kill (Harog). This distinction is not simply an exercise in semantics. To murder is to wrongly end the life of a human being. To kill is the justifiable ending of a life that has already lost its meaning. This is because the loss of the wicked is beneficial to the world. Furthering this philosophy is Exodus 22:2–3, clearly stating that “If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed…”

“THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

We have all heard, “Don’t just stand there, do something.” In a more sophisticated fashion, someone once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The origin of this poignant truism has been a matter of debate, having been attributed to Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Irish philosopher Edmund Burke, and English philosopher John Stuart Mill. Three thousand five hundred years before any of the above individuals could have coined the concept, Hashem commanded us in Leviticus 19:16, “You shall not stand by [the shedding of] your fellow’s blood”. Or, simply put, don’t just stand there. Do something!

We are further commanded in Exodus 21:14, “…if a man plots deliberately to slay his neighbor, you shall take him from My alter, that he may die.”

We are repeatedly commanded by the Almighty to defend ourselves, to protect others, and to kill would-be murderers. In today’s world, this means the legal possession of a firearm. Tikkun Olam and Kumbaya are ineffective means of self-defense.

Founded by Jews in 1989, JPFO initially aimed at educating the Jewish community about the historical evils that Jews have suffered when they have been disarmed. (Photo: Wikipedia).

Two decades ago, an American Jewish Committee study revealed that Jews had the lowest rate of gun ownership of all religious groups. (4)

The only high-profile Jewish gun owner’s advocacy group at the time was “Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership,” which was founded by U.S. Navy veteran, Aaron S. Zelman and included Rabbinic Directors, Rabbi R. Mermelstein and Rabbi Dovid Bendory. (5)

This organization was frowned upon by the by the American Jewish Community and castigated by Abraham Foxman, Past National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. (6)

Twenty years later an American Jewish Committee study, revealed that Forty-one percent of Jews in the United States feel less secure than they did one year ago and the number of Jews who feel that protecting the right of civilians to own guns is on the rise (https://www.ajc.org/news/new-ajc-report-41-of-american-jews-say-status-in-us-less-secure-than-a-year-ago).

The Torah commands self-preservation. In today’s violent arena of Antisemitism, honoring the second amendment has become necessary for self-preservation. When the second amendment is ignored, the first amendment is also breached by, “… prohibiting the free exercise thereof (religion)….”

When we fear that our lives are at risk when praying in synagogues, studying in Yeshivas, dining in kosher restaurants, or even wearing a Yarmulke in public, and the government prevents us from defending ourselves, freedom to practice our religion is denied.

Parents wait for information about their children who were in a daycare facility where shots were fired in the lobby. Five victims, three male children and two female adults, were shot at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, California Tuesday morning, August 10, 1999. (Photo: Los Angeles Daily Times)

 

A decade ago, we failed to see the writing on the wall.

A Neo-Nazi strolled into a Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles armed with an Uzi. He shot three children, a teenage counselor, and an office worker.

An Islamist searching for “Something Jewish” entered the Seattle Jewish Federation Building and proceeded to shoot six women.

An 88-year-old Holocaust denier entered the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC and fatally shot a Police Officer. If not for the immediate response of private armed guards, a higher casualty count was certain.

More recent deadly attacks against unarmed Jews include the 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh; the lethal 2019 shooting at a Chabad synagogue in California; the Black Hebrew Israelites who planned to murder children in a New Jersey Jewish day school but had to settle for a shootout at a kosher supermarket; and a machete-wielding assassin who raided a Hanukkah gathering at a rabbi’s home in New York.

As my grandparents would have said, “GENUG iz genug!”

Northjersey.com verified that there has been a spike in gun permit applications in Jewish communities. Chief Glen O’Reilly of Teaneck, NJ said his department added additional employees to process firearms permits. Lt. William Duran of Bergenfield reported a jump in permit requests with double the previous monthly averages. (7)

According to Rabbi Dovid Bendory, a Certified NRA Instructor, “How do Jews expect to put teeth behind the words “Never Again!” if not with the ability to apply and project personal force when righteous — and necessary — for survival?” (8)

Rabbi Rav Dovid’s sentiments are shared by many. The Golani Rifle and Pistol Club, in Teaneck New Jersey was founded by Orthodox Jews. Member Joshua Levy said, “We should be very careful with guns, but Jews are a careful people.” (9)

NYS Jewish Gun Club is a gun club based in Rockland County, NY that was created as a club that unifies Jewish gun owners. (Photo: nysjewishgunclub.com)

 

Anthony Colandro, manager at Gun for Hire shooting range in Woodland Park, New Jersey says, “Sometimes there’s so many religious people here, you’d think you’re in a synagogue.” (10)

Business at Erik Melanson’s Precision Gunsmiths in Valley Cottage, New York has skyrocketed 30% since the local Antisemitic assaults. “There is a surge in Jewish people getting training and guns,” says Melanson. (11)

According to Tzvi Waldman, founder of the New York Jewish Gun Club in Monsey says, “There has been an increase in gun ownership among the Chassidic community, especially in the past few years.” (12)

Certified NRA Instructor and Israel Defense Forces veteran Shlomo Reichberg owns the Tactical Defense Initiative training range in the Catskills. TDI was founded in response to growing threats of anti-Semitism, with a vision to secure the life, property, and values of the Jewish community.

Yeshiva Yoreh Deah in Monsey, led by Rabbi Aron Lankry, proudly offering a shooting range with NRA-certified instructors and members of the Israeli military.

Rabbi Dan Rodkin, of Shaloh House in Boston is urging his congregation to bring their guns to Shabbat — claiming their thoughts and prayers are not enough to save them during a mass shooting. “Political correctness is important, too, but not as important as a life.” (13)

Dr. Fred Kogen is a physician, mohel and founder of the California-based Bullets and Bagels shooting club. “I would like every Jewish person to have a passing familiarity with a firearm.” (14)

Mike Miller, founder of the Austin, Texas Jewish Rifle and Pistol Club, said, “Jewish people need to be trained to be proficient in gun laws and on the shooting range,” he continued. “When the police are called, it is often too late.” (15)

According to B’nai Brith Canada Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, 2022 saw 2,769 incidents, down 1.1% from the 2,799 incidents reported in 2021. (Photo: B’nai Brith Canada.)

 In Canada, as in America, antisemitism is at an all-time high and the Jewish community leads the list of minorities subjected to religious hatred. In the year between 2020 and 2021, violent Antisemitic incidents increased by more than 700% and this trend has continued. (16)

Despite a 2011 Canadian study finding no correlation between new restrictive gun laws and firearm homicide rates (17) and a 2022 study that yielded comparable results, the Canadian Government is presently placing greater restrictions on gun ownership including confiscation. (18)

Protest and petition your legislators and representatives.

For Jews living in the “Great White North,” I can’t help you, but for those in “The Land of the Free.” seeking firearm training with a schmooze and a shmear, here are some suggestions:

  • Bullets & Bagels, Los Angeles.
  • Cherev Gidon Israeli Tactical Training Academy, Pennsylvania
  • The Givati “All our events are strictly Kosher” Rifle & Pistol Club, Baltimore
  • Golani Rifle and Pistol Club, New Jersey
  • Glocks & Bagels, Houston
  • Guns N’ Moses, Kansas City
  • Guns N’ Moses, San Diego
  • Jews Can Shoot, Florida
  • The Jewish Rifle & Pistol Cub, Central Texas
  • Las Vegas Jewish Cigar & Shooting Club, Nevada
  • New York State Jewish Gun Club, New York
  • The Tactical “Become a Jewish Warrior” Defense Initiative, Catskills, New York

Bob Dylan said, “you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone for the times they are a-changin.”

The times are indeed changing.

A note to progressive Jews who continue to support and defend the Jew-hating masses who discourage.

Jewish gun ownership, you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like

About the Author
Gary Branfman, MD is co-founder of Israelnow.ca, past president of Congregation B’nai Israel in Victoria, Texas and singlehandedly had the IHRA definition of Antisemitism endorsed by the City. Dr. Branfman has lectured internationally on Racism and has written for several publications. He has appeared on CBS evening news with David Begnaud and Al Jazeera.
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