Photo Credit: Uri Lenz/FLASH90

Less than 24 hours after the horrific machete attack in Monsey, NY, the local chassidic community went on with a pre-scheduled Torah scroll dedication, passing by the scene of the crime and dancing. The message was simple: Nothing is going to stop us from going about our lives as Jews. Grafton Thomas and his ilk will not stop us from basking in the simcha of life and enjoying the blessings of religious liberty that America guarantees.

Their approach to the tragedy is commendable – but only half right. After the Pittsburgh Tree of Life and Poway Chabad shootings, and with the increasing number of attacks against Jews in New York, it is clear that Jews are not necessarily safer and freer in America than in illiberal countries. Anti-Semites exist in every society and we cannot escape them. What we can do, though, is be more prepared.


The police cannot possibly be everywhere to protect us from evil individuals on the loose walking our streets. By the time cops come to a scene, the assaults will have already occurred and people will already be dead. No matter how many cops are on patrol in the vicinity, they will not arrive in time to thwart an attack – because it only takes seconds for people to be killed or injured. For that reason, we cannot rely on the police while an attack is in progress. We have to stand on our own two feet to ensure our safety.

Jewish organizations have focused a lot on education in response to these tragedies, but educating others to be tolerant of us only produces limited results. I believe it is we, actually, that need to learn something. Specifically, I would like to see us focus more on self-defense training in our communities.

We should follow the example of the Christian churchgoers in White Settlement, Texas. They prevented a larger-scale massacre the day after the Monsey shooting by taking down the gunman themselves. Many of us were not raised in a culture of guns, but it is about time we learned how to use them safely and have them with us wherever we gather. Not everyone in every community needs to be armed – just enough to stop an attack in progress.

But for those squeamish about firearms, they are not the only answer. There are many other skills of self-defense that could and should be developed among American Jews on a wider scale. For example, training in Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art, would be perfect. Let congregations and Jewish Community Centers host self-defense training workshops to encourage more knowledge of self-protection by as many members of the community as possible.

I particularly encourage the chassidic communities to develop these skills, as they seem to have even less familiarity with self-defense than assimilated Jews, and they also seem to be common targets because of their appearance.

The simple reality is that it is a dangerous world out there – and not just for Jews. But Jews are particularly vulnerable because we are seen as easy targets. There are many causes of anti-Semitism, but ultimately, we have to compare ourselves to the book-smart (but not street-smart) kid in school with the glasses and briefcase. We get picked on because the bullies know we won’t fight back.

We need to change that dynamic and create a reputation for having members around us who will take whatever measures are necessary to protect the community.

The early Zionist thinkers understood the importance of strength and encouraged Israelis to be “new Jews” – Jews who have the physical prowess to defend themselves against their oppressors. I’m not suggesting anything as ambitious as that for American Jewry, but something in that direction would definitely make American Jews safer on the sidewalks and in their homes, synagogues, and schools.


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Adam Fuller is an associate professor of political science at Youngstown State University and the author of the recently-published “Israel and the Neoconservatives: Zionism and American Interests.”