The aftermath of the horrific terror attacks on Israel saw an outburst of social media threats and demonstrations against Jews both in the U.S. and worldwide. As a result, alarmed Jewish Americans are purchasing weapons and seeking firearms training in droves to protect themselves.
A self-defense reaction taken by both Israeli Jews and those in the U.S. is to acquire a gun and become proficient in using it. Gun shops report a “tremendous increase” in Jewish customers.
David Kowalsky is the Jewish proprietor of the Florida Gun Store in Hollywood, Florida.
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He reported a major rise “in religious Jewish people, Orthodox people purchasing firearms. I’ve seen a surge in interest in individual training as well as group training.”
Besides individuals seeking to be better prepared, Kowalsky said local synagogues in the last week reached out to him to host seminars. Most participants, he noted, are first-time gun owners. Many are teachers and mothers looking to defend themselves from possible violent attacks.
He added, “There’s a safety concern. I think people are nervous about what’s going on and what can happen.”
On the West Coast, Magen Am is a nonprofit that offers self-defense and security training to Jews. Founder and President Rabbi Yossi Eilfort said his group received more than 600 calls in the week after the Oct. 7 attacks.
That’s up from the normal average of 40 to 50 per week.
The rabbi said calls for self-defense training from worried Jewish Americans have “just been really, really nonstop.”
Eilfort said, “We can’t put down the phone without picking up the next one. The calls for self-defense training, situational awareness training — ‘How do I make my shop or my institution a harder target?’” keep coming in.
Then there’s New York, where leftist state lawmakers banned possessing a firearm in a place of worship. A group of Jewish gun owners sued the state for the ability to defend themselves in the face of rising anti-Semitic attacks — many times on synagogues.
The New York State Jewish Gun Club argued that their freedom to worship was compromised if they were afraid and unable to protect their congregations.
New York Orthodox rabbi and political strategist Hank Sheinkopf noted that American Jews historically have been “on the left, pro-gun reform, pro-gun control, opposed to personal gun ownership.
But he lamented that in light of recent events, the view of the U.S. as “one place in the world where Jews are safe — is coming to an end.”