In the Wake of the Pittsburg Tragedy, A Call for Self-Defense Emerges

Some in the Jewish community say they are arming themselves.

The attack on Oct. 27 claimed the lives of 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue.
The attack on Oct. 27 claimed the lives of 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue.NPR

As a nation mourns those lost in the tragedy that took place in Pennsylvania’s Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 27 that claimed the lives of 11 people, many are taking steps to protect themselves from such an attack in the future. “From now on,” Brooklyn borough president Eric L. Adams, a retired captain of the New York Police Department, told the NY Times “I will bring my handgun every time I enter a church or synagogue.” Adams, a Democrat and 22-year veteran of the New York Police Department, addressed members of the media and general public gathered outside the Ohel Bais Ezra Children’s Home and Family Services Center, a Jewish family services center in the Midwood neighborhood, home to one of New York City’s highest concentrations of Orthodox Jews, and urged off-duty officers to bring guns when they attend religious services.

"This Jewish boy is going to buy a gun."

- —Roger L. Simon

(Adams likely only encouraged members of law enforcement to carry in places of worship, because it is notoriously difficult to acquire a pistol license or carry permit in New York City, with a corrupt licensing department engaging in pay-to-play schemes, requiring large bribes to obtain the necessary permits.

"I sometimes look behind me to see if I see anyone strange," Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat of Brooklyn and a fierce advocate for Jewish interests, told the Times "Just instinctively I do that. Just the idea of having security at Jewish institutions that are especially targets is something important. It's a must." Hikind, who intends to register for a gun license, noted that plenty of Israelis with military training resided in New York City, and could be called upon to secure synagogues.

Roger L. Simon
Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, award-winning novelist and blogger Roger L. Simon has decided the time had come to arm himself.Twitter

Hikind’s interest in obtaining a firearm was echoed by many others in the Jewish community. Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, award-winning novelist and blogger Roger L. Simon has decided the time had come to arm himself.

"For some time I have been a supporter of the Second Amendment—intellectually. I agreed with the Founders' rationale for the right to bear arms. I even joined the NRA. But I never bought a gun," Simon wrote on his blog. "Until now. Until Pittsburgh. This Jewish boy is going to buy a gun."

Haaretz reports the sentiment is widely shared, with hundreds of interested students contacting one tactical defense instructor in the 72 hours following the horrific attack. All but three or four were Jewish.

"When this happens, you get a wake-up call," said David Ortner, a 28-year-old owner of an optician shop in Monsey, New York. Haaretz states he was one of nine Jewish men who attended a one-day course on Tuesday at the privately owned Cherev Gidon Israeli Tactical Defense Academy near Scranton, Pennsylvania. The class was scheduled in response to the Pittsburgh synagogue attack.

Yonatan Stern, a veteran officer of the Israel Defense Forces and director of the academy, started the academy six years ago. He told Haaretz demand for firearms training had never been higher than after Saturday's attack. Some of the students attending the course were card-carrying NRA members, while others had never fired a gun before. Many of them intended to bring guns to their synagogues on the next Sabbath for protection.

The effects of the awful event were felt as far away as Colorado Springs where Dragon Arms owner Mel Bernstein is offering rabbis a free AR 15 or handgun. Bernstein will also include ammunition and training to go along with the firearm.

"Let's say there's a fire in a Synagogue—what are you going to grab? You grab a fire extinguisher," Bernstein told KOAA News. "Let's say someone comes in and starts shooting…You grab an AR 15, or a rifle, or a handgun. You gotta fight back."

Unfortunately, instead of coming together after the horrible event, some used the terrible incident for political gain. Before police were even able to process the scene, gun-grabber Shannon Watts had already began spewing anti-Second Amendment rhetoric on Twitter. Townhall reports the zealot had started her vitriol within minutes of the first news reports.