It was 45 minutes into his lecture when the rabbi pulled out an AR-15.
“Who thinks, by show of hands, that we should be carrying more guns in shul?” Rabbi Raziel Cohen asked the crowd at a Westside Chabad synagogue Wednesday night, during an active-shooter seminar organized in the wake of the deadly attack at Chabad of Poway.
Half the room raised their hands.
In the days since the shooting, Chabad leaders in California have scrambled to secure public safety grants and to calm frightened congregants, mobilizing hundreds more through active-shooter drills and community defense training. In Southern California, religious security experts such as Cohen, who calls himself the “Tactical Rabbi,” are quickly becoming their own cottage industry.
Chabad is a movement of Hasidic Judaism. Unlike other Hasidic communities, which tend to be insular, Chabad views outreach to unaffiliated and less observant Jews as the heart of its theology — a position that sometimes puts it at odds with other Jewish groups.
Los Angeles has more Chabad congregations than anywhere outside Brooklyn. A deadly attack on one of their own just six months after the massacre in Pittsburgh has raised painful questions of identity for a group long animated by outreach. The sect’s embrace of ahavat yisrael — the commandment to love one’s fellow as oneself — is these synagogues’ reason for being.
“Our arms are open, but security always comes first — if some of the openness has to be sacrificed, so be it,” said Rabbi Simcha Backman, who heads Chabad of Glendale and is part of the sect’s California leadership. “In Jewish law, going back to the Torah, first and foremost is protecting lives. Everything else is secondary. And in the world we live in today, we need to focus on saving lives and keeping people safe.”
But safety comes at a price. One large Chabad congregation meets in a building disguised as an empty storefront. Another now questions newcomers at the door.
“We don’t want to be victims,” Cohen said. “We need to protect ourselves now.”
Read the full article here.
WIBC host Tony Katz:
“You are a soft target in your place of worship. And to say that you should be armed at your place of worship is not the radical position; it is the loving position.
You should go home alive to your wife and children. I say to you, if you Rabbi, Pastor or faith leader tells you not to bring a firearm to your place of worship, you should fire him or her or find another place to worship.”
Click the link below to hear Tony’s full commentary.
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