Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Synagogue Gun Clubs

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…


  1. you need a different name. While guns fascinate me and never cease to give me a thrill, i have no misconceptions about their deadliness. There is an unhealthy gun culture in a lot of places, and I think it's obvious, that in a perfect,messianic time, world--our guns would be made into laptops. Nonetheless, if its an olympic sport it can't be something thats looked on as totally taboo. And i can certainly see why in certain circumstances there might be a need for such widespread training that it'll need a shul to run it:) but call it something like "defenders of zion" or "out of the ghetto" or something like that. Brad

  2. the "gun club" sounds too much like "the scotch club" or the "cigar club" and while you can make an argument that all should not be done... I dont know, i need to think about it more--whether guns are more deadly than cigars and scotch.Brad

  3. Frankly, the idea creeps me out. Despite the explanation that "we need to defend ourselves" it plays into the victim mentality. But I'm not a gun person. I dislike them intensely. I feel that if you're going to commit that level of violence on another person, you need to be close enough to see them, smell them, touch them, take personal responsibility for what you're doing.

    Now a synagogue martial arts class, that I could get behind. (Just picture the poses: flying tzitzis; front snap with gefilte fish to chin; crushing the kofer...)

  4. I don't get it at all.
    You want to "arm up and train" your youth "to respond to anti-Semitic mobs".
    Is that the kind of life you want for your children? Where are the laws and the law enforcemnt?
    Never mind shooting a gun in a misguided moment, what would be the proper time to shoot that gun?
    If your congregation feels so threatened why are you still there?
    Do you think that if the Jews in Germany had 'Synagogue Gun Clubs' they would have fared better? I doubt it. But if they could have emigrated en masse to Palestine they would have been a lot better off.
    Think about it.

  5. Brad-
    How about "The AK-47 for deer-hunting club"?

    Hmmm... Martial Arts was part of what people were suggesting.

    Actually, that was my answer to the loudest of the proponents of this idea. I told him to make aliyah, and then he'd have a whole army full of armed people who are trained to do exactly this!

  6. Jewish kids need to use their bodies (my humble opinion), not see their parents armed. They shouldn't be afraid to throw a punch to defend themselves; my parents' generation certainly did, on the way to cheder.

    It's not what we learn in school, and in an enlightened era, parents of my generation really didn't need to encourage marshall arts or Krav Maga. But it's time, maybe, to get the kids back to self-defense classes.

  7. "I don’t want people with small children keeping guns at home"

    i don't understand. proper storage solves that one. my bleach and other household poisons are in childproof cabinets and guns are appropriately locked up and rendered inoperable.

    "We don’t bring weapons into a beis medrash"

    ok as long as you're not duchaning, at least acc. to this teshuvah by r. hayyim david halevi:



    i don't see how it plays into the victim mentality. to the contrary.

    martial arts is not effective in all situations and/or for all people (although i'm not saying it's not important as well)


    "Is that the kind of life you want for your children?"

    it's not exactly like you are living in the safest place for jewish children either. (granted that i think it's better for jews to fight for the survival of their own country than to fight to survive in someone else's country)

    "Where are the laws and the law enforcemnt?"

    you can't rely on law enforcement during periods of civil unrest (e.g., crown heights, new orleans, LA). personally this is more of a concern to me than violent anti-semitism.

    "Do you think that if the Jews in Germany had 'Synagogue Gun Clubs' they would have fared better?"

    something i always wondered when people say "if only the jews in europe had guns" is at what point would they have used them or would they have waited until it was too late.

    (i noticed from your profile page that you were a betarnik. it's not exactly like that was anti-gun organization.)

  9. LOZ,
    I believe that Jews need a Jewish state with a Jewish army and police force to protect them.
    If you live in a country where the army and police force don't protect Jews - you should get out of there as quickly as you can. It is a waste of time, effort and talent to try to set up any kind of Jewish self defense in the galut. There are just too many of them and so very few of us.

  10. the ak-47 for deer hunting club? u need an ak-47 for deer hunting like you need a hammer to take out a splinter from your finger. You use an ak for deer hunting and ur liable to pull a cheney. One more nuance occured to me. the scotch and cigar club are definitely only open to adults--we hope. The gun club--name to be determined- the you are proposing seems to be open/even aimed(pun kinda intended) at young adults as well. There is a lot of research about young adult decision making and the mistakes there-in. while making a mistake with alcohol and cigars is usually less immediately dangerous--guns always remain that way. Something to consider.Brad

  11. "We don’t bring weapons into a beis medrash"

    Sure we do. M16's, Glock pistols, scoped rfiles -- every single shabbat.

    Along with radio equipment, cellphones, and pagers.

  12. Therapydoc-
    I see many up-sides in children's martial arts classes, provided they are taught age-appropriately, and with a focus on mastering a skill and gaining physical confidence.

    Bleach is not nearly as tempting as a gun - and the headlines bear that out.

    Lion, Jameel-
    In my days in Kerem b'Yavneh weapons were always left at the entrance.

    No proposal here; just having fun with the thought. And get your hands off my AK-47 - I live in a state where the Second Amendment ranks higher than any other.

  13. BRAD:

    were you ever in the boy scouts?


    "the headlines bear that out"

    according to the headlines israel is also the most dangerous place on the planet. and we know that's not true.

    so putting the headlines aside, i'm curious what poison control and police stats would revel about the relative rate of childhood injury from firearms vs. household poisons is.

    and talking about israel, what about all those settlers with a gun and ten kids.

  14. Lion-
    I don't know about any one population in Israel, but I do know of gun accidents there.
    I, too, am curious about the police stats. Feel free to report research here...

  15. Two years ago in KBY, guys regularly brought the gun into the beis medrash, and the posek was not happy about it, so the grandmother of one of the guys made a fabric cover for the gun, so guys can sit in the beis medrash with their chavrusa and just have the gun sitting at their feet.