- As antisemitism continues to climb in the U.S., the Jewish community has turned to the Second Amendment to protect themselves, according to several experts that spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- Tzvi Waldman, leader of the NYS Jewish Gun Club, told the DCNF that many synagogues can’t afford expensive private security but they have little choice when states like New York simultaneously ban guns in synagogues and don’t curb rising antisemitism.
- “In the last six and a half years, I have seen, unfortunately, and fortunately, a massive uptake in Jews going out and getting guns, training and starting to be a lot more vocal about how important the Second Amendment is,” Yehuda Remer, founder of The Pew Pew Jew, a Jewish Second Amendment advocacy organization located in Texas, told the DCNF.
In response to rising antisemitism over the past few years, Jews are increasingly embracing firearms as a means of self-protection, community leaders and experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Jews reported 814 antisemitic incidents in 2021 alone, while the number of anti-Jewish assaults across the country in 2021 increased by 16% from 2020, according to FBI hate crime statistics. In response, more Jews have begun exercising their rights under the Second Amendment to protect themselves and their communities, according to experts that spoke with the DCNF.
“I entered the [gun] industry about six years ago, and at the time, I was kind of disheartened to see that Jews didn’t have representation in the Second Amendment world,” Yehuda Remer, founder of The Pew Pew Jew, a Jewish gun rights advocacy organization located in Texas, told the DCNF. “In the last six and a half years, I have seen, unfortunately, and fortunately, a massive uptick in Jews going out and getting guns … and starting to be a lot more vocal about how important the Second Amendment is. I think a lot of these people never would have picked up a gun, or even given it a second thought, if it wasn’t for the rise in antisemitism.”
Rabbi Yossi Elifort, the founder of Magen Am USA, a non-profit organization that helps create armed security teams within the Jewish community, also noted the increasing amount of interest in self-defense in the Jewish community.
“I probably trained 300 first-time shooters in the last two years,” Elifort said. “So there are a lot of first-timers coming out. What’s interesting about American Second Amendment culture is that I found the people who own guns for longer and grew up shooting tend to be less interested or concerned [about] training and those that are getting into it now are more open to it.”
One study, from Americans Against Antisemitism, found that, in New York City, those who were easily identified as Jewish made up 94% of the victims of antisemitic hate crimes from 2018 to 2022. Remer said that Jews have traditionally been silent about the hate directed at them, but as the incidents have escalated, from swastikas spray-painted on synagogues to muggings and shootings while walking down the street, there has been a greater push to learn how to defend themselves.
Raziel Cohen, also known as the Tactical Rabbi, and founder of the National Defensive Firearms Training Academy, told the DCNF that many of the people they’ve helped train in recent years had never even held a firearm.
“A big portion of what we’re dealing with is people who have never touched a firearm before,” Cohen said. “So there’s definitely a different level of training that goes into teaching a beginner so that they are confident and safe, especially since owning a firearm, in general, is obviously a very serious responsibility. There is a large amount of people who have never been involved but either had an attack happen to them or came to the understanding that it’s very possible and that’s why they’re now making the decision to go forward with it.”
Remer and Cohen noted that the number of Jewish women looking to learn how to shoot has also heavily increased. Cohen explained that women are typically more serious about training because the risk to females at home, or walking down the street, is much greater than to men.
Jewish synagogues have also experienced an increasing level of violence. In December, a man was arrested in Michigan after threatening a Jewish synagogue and preschool, and then, in February, another man walked into a San Francisco synagogue, firing blank rounds into the ceiling, during a small gathering.
Tzvi Waldman, who heads the NYS Jewish Gun Club in New York, told the DCNF that part of the reason Jews are at risk is because of laws that prevent them from carrying guns in houses of worship. Waldman said that many synagogues can’t afford expensive private security, but they have little choice when states like New York ban guns in places of worship.
“We shouldn’t have to rely on a third party nor the government,” Waldman said. “I mean the First Amendment, it’s our right to free speech, [but] I don’t have to hire a press secretary to talk and I’m allowed to get on social media, or just stand in front of my house with a microphone and say whatever I want to say. The more effective way, and the way of constitutional law, is to have [trained] citizens within the community to be there, just in case, … [but] you’re not allowed to do that under the current law.”
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