The “Hit a Jew” communal hate crime (sorry Principal Lelonek, but let’s call it for what it is) at Parkway West Middle School in Missouri last week has sparked a local reaction: Some people are saying it’s time, or past time, to arm up, train our youth and be prepared to respond to anti-Semitic mobs. As one man put it to me, “If the Muslims have training camps, and Christian groups have training camps, why not us?”
I am of two minds on this:
*I do think it’s important for American Jews to face the reality of the threat around them. I don’t see the American government turning against Jews on a militant level, but we have to face reality: Individual citizens looking to blame someone for the demise of their 401(k) plans are going to look for their time-honored Jewish scapegoats.
*Many people in our shul are already gun users, whether they own weapons or just choose to use them at firing ranges. Why not get organized to promote self-defense?
*I see nothing wrong - and a lot right - with learning to fire a gun. I personally have rifle training from my days at Kerem b’Yavneh.
*Synagogues are a good point for communal organization; we arrange hospitality and chesed ventures, we hold events for youth, etc. It’s logical, then, to organize around the synagogue in this regard as well.
*I don’t want people with small children keeping guns at home. Yes, I want to be able to defend myself. But no, I don’t want any more of those horror stories about kids who get to their parents’ weapons.
*The nightmarish prospect of someone bringing a weapon into shul and firing it in some misguided moment, thinking we are under attack or some such thing, is also horrifying.
*We don’t bring weapons into a beis medrash (study hall), and King David was told he could not build the Beis haMikdash (Jerusalem Temple) because he had shed blood - even though that bloodshed had been justified. So should we really start an official synagogue gun club?
*And the other problem is that creating a high-profile program like this is bound to attract the wrong kind of publicity, and to some it would be seen as a challenge, a dare. Better to keep security low-profile and under the radar.
Overall, I’m inclined against it at the moment; the negatives are too overwhelming. If people want to train themselves, let them do it without the official synagogue banner.
But, of course, that last line could just be a subterfuge, to keep the Congregation Sons of Israel Gun Club low profile and under the radar…