By: Ronald J. Edelstein
For Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn and throughout New York City, the summer of 2019 has tragically been replete with horrifying new reports of continuous anti-Semitic assaults. Clearly identifiable as Jews because of their traditional garb, Orthodox Jews have been subjected to vicious beatings, robberies, verbal harassment and malicious video propaganda by assorted Jew hating attackers.
In the last week of August alone we witnessed three vicious attacks on Jews.
On August 27th, 63-year old Abraham Gopin was brutally attacked with a paving stone while exercising in Lincoln Terrace Park in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. The suspect yelled an anti-Semitic slur before blindsiding his victim.
On August 29th, an assailant threw rocks at a Jewish man while the victim was in his truck.
On August 31st, an assailant hit a Jewish man with a belt outside a synagogue.
While it has become abundantly clear that the scourge of anti-Semitism has infected every quadrant of our society to the extent that we never thought possible, we also must come to the stark realization that we are in the throes of a trendy manifestation that has seen anti-Semitism sharply politicized.
Let’s be clear. History has scrupulously recorded that anti-Semitism is an equal opportunity offender. It exists and thrives in the ranks of the political right and the political left and there is no escaping this well documented fact. Anti-Semitism is essentially a bigamist as it is wedded to both and displays no preference for either. Its malevolent tentacles are well entrenched on both ends of the political spectrum.
Today’s mainstream media, liberal politicians and elected officials of the Democratic party seem to fall all over each other in the frenetic race to unanimously condemn anti-Semitism when it emanates from perpetrators who are considered “white nationalists” or Trump supporters, yet these same politicos are eerily silent when the attackers of Jews are representative of minority groups. In other words, these liberals are suffering from a terminal case of selective “condemnation.” They can no longer hide their political biases nor can they conceal their nefarious and self-serving agendas.
Case in point: On August 29th, it was reported that New York Attorney General Letitia James condemned a video posted by the Rockland County Republican Party, calling it anti-Semitic for falsely warning that Chassidic Jews are plotting a “takeover.”
The video in question which has since been removed from the group’s Facebook page had claimed “overdevelopment” has “plagued” Rockland County (which is about 25 miles north of New York City) and makes particular mention of Rockland County legislator Aron Wieder. The video uses phrases like “A storm is brewing,” and says, “What’s at stake” is “our way of life.” Text in the video reads, “If they win. We lose.”
AG James called the video “deeply disturbing.” In a statement released to the media, James added, “To clearly state that members of the Jewish community are a threat to families and our safety and that they must be stopped is despicable and completely unacceptable.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the video an “attack and incitement against the Hasidic community” and the “very definition of discrimination and anti-Semitism.”
It is exceptionally noteworthy to mention that such self-righteous expressions of condemnation appear to be exclusively reserved for “right wing” and GOP offenders, and nary a word of chastisement for minority perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks is ever uttered by James and Cuomo as they pursue their agendas with a palpable gusto.
The questions that should be asked is why Letitia James has remained silent about the attacks on Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn? Does her office have any intention of launching an exhaustive investigation into this spate of attacks in order to discover precisely who is behind them? Has Ms. James given specific directives to local prosecutors to try these cases with boldness and zeal? Has she asked that the defendants in these cases be punished to the fullest extent of the law?
Clearly, for people like Letitia James, when the defendants don’t coincide with the kind of folks who can help further her aims, it is much more convenient to ignore these attacks and to work actively to “disappear” them from the record.
As for Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, the same can be said. While these lackeys of the Democratic party feverishly attempt to frame the conversation about the resurgence of anti-Semitism around “White House rhetoric” it is clear that their feckless efforts to squarely assign blame to Trump for propagating Jew hatred are not gaining the kind of credibility or traction that they had hoped for.
Calling for Jewish Self-Defense
This being said, the sad reality is that Orthodox Jews find themselves in a conundrum. With attacks against them not abating but rather proliferating in a menacing fashion, the question remains what course of action to take.
Should community patrols (such as the Shomrim) along with a beefed up police presence in Orthodox neighborhoods be depended on solely for security or would it be wiser for Jews to start obtaining firearms training to protect themselves, their families, their synagogues and yeshivas?
What also comes to mind is an organized campaign that should be aimed at our elected officials as we vigorously lobby them to enact legislation to radically alter gun laws in New York State; making it easier for law abiding Jews to carry and use weaponry to protect ourselves. No doubt it will be a protracted and often onerous legal battle in Albany that may take many years or even decades, but with an eye to the future, it must start somewhere.
Yes, there is no doubt that the issue of gun control has dominated the headlines as mass shootings have tragically become commonplace occurrences. As a responsible gun owner, I can tell you that I support background checks for everyone who wishes to be armed in this country. No one who is deemed to be suffering from mental instability or has a criminal background should be allowed to own a gun. I certainly don’t envision nor do I advocate for the creation of vigilante squads comprised of unhinged Jews who would roam the streets in a reckless and trigger happy manner.
What I am proffering as a realistic idea is that at the very least, every synagogue, every yeshiva, should assign a group of anywhere between 3-7 people who have been trained by licensed and reputable professionals in tactical/safety methodology and firearms training. These responsible people should acquire an extensive familiarity with the layout of the synagogue, mikvah or yeshivah and diligently rehearse live shooter scenarios.
Now, it would be foolhardy to believe that the question of whether Jews should carry guns has not been rigorously debated amongst our collective Jewish family in the past. There are those who of the belief that from a religious perspective, carrying and using guns is pure anathema to Jewish values.
Let’s just bear in mind that it was the intrepid Jews who participated in the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising who used guns in their attempts to save themselves and others from further deportation to concentration camps by the Nazis. And let’s not forget that it was the visionary Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky who called for firearms training amongst the members of his historic youth movement Betar as Nazi brutality spread like wildfire throughout Europe. And let’s be cognizant of the fact that it was the prescient and often unfairly maligned Rabbi Meir Kahane, ztk’l who called for “Every Jew a 22” as it was he who strongly encouraged Jews to acquire the knowledge of how to shoot a gun, with the fervent prayer that we never be placed in a situation where we must use it.
Having said this, we must all give serious consideration to arming ourselves; especially now before the onset of the Yomim Noraim, the high holy day season. Our synagogues and those who attend them deserve protection and we have no excuse not to do implement detailed plans on how to do just that.
To quote the founder of the newly formed organization “Americans Against Anti-Semitism,” former NYS Assemblyman Dov Hikind said on September 12th, “In times like these, with violent anti-Semitism on the rise, we can’t rely on others to secure our places of worship, so it’s imperative that we shore up our defenses.”
Hikind adds that, “Americans Against Anti-Semitism has partnered with two security training organizations, SecurityIntel and Sons of Liberty, to offer totally FREE training to synagogues which includes security awareness, facility walk through assessments that expose weaknesses and blindspots, active shooter scenario response and tactical/safety training.”
For further information on this crucial training, please contact Americans Against Anti-Semitism at: [email protected]
Better to be safe than sorry. Jews!! Defend yourselves now and let’s all enjoy a safe and meaningful Rosh HaShana, Yom KIppur and Sukkos holiday.
Ronald Edelstein is a Jewish philanthropist who is the chairman of Ron Properties, a real estate company in New York. He is a leading advocate of a variety of Jewish causes including Collel Chabad and the Friends of the IDF.