Chief Rabbi Suggests Training and Arming All Jews
NEW YORK — October 29, 2018
The New York City Chief Rabbi called on congregants and all other residents to arm themselves to provide protection in the event of armed attacks after the high-profile incident at a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday, when an anti-Semitic gunman killed 11 people.
"You must have it," Rabbi Gary Moskowitz said of armed congregants. "A guy comes in with a gun, and what can they do? Throw chairs at them? We're sitting ducks here."
Moskowitz is known as a former policeman who founded a group called the International Security Coalition of Clergy, which previously sought to arm Jews in synagogues out of fear jihadists would attack them.
Now he has again offered Jews special training in the event of such armed attacks, as well as help applying for permits to carry guns in their synagogues following the Pittsburgh attack—and he's not alone.
"Several people in every synagogue should have the right to carry a premise permit," Moskowitz said.
The rabbi's idea was supported by other employees, among them Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, who is an executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis.
"I'm in favor," he said. "I would like to see some protection. It could serve as a deterrent."
With the premise permit, Moskowitz says members of a synagogue would be allowed to carry a weapon while at services and travel to and from the building with it.
The rabbi believes that arming the congregants is ultimately a better solution than using private security or police protection because a member of a synagogue would be able to spot more things out of the ordinary. A cop or guard would not be as familiar with the temple, he added.
He and members of his security group held a meeting at their Kew Gardens Synagogue on Sunday night to discuss how to get their message out. It’s unclear, though, what was decided.
In addition, as Moskowitz stated, he personally would be ready if the authorities will give permission to spend a few specialized lessons in weapon handling as well as practical sessions in the event of armed conflict.
Rabbi Dr. Tzemah Yoreh, leader of The City Congregation, told the Post that while he was “conflicted” about allowing guns in the synagogue, he could see why others would want them.
"On the one hand, we want to celebrate openness and freedom of worship and have people come into sanctuaries and not be impeded," Yoreh said. "On the other hand, people in my community are really scared."