Synagogue Tragedy: Living Up To “Never Again”


The tragedy that befell the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a tragedy we should not and can not ever forget the 11 lives that were lost that day, making it the most deadly attack on the Jewish community in US history according to the Anti-Defamation League. Four officers were injured as well during the onslaught, so I have to ask this question to the Jewish community and to all other faiths as well: Why are we ok with disarming the members of our congregation from being allowed to carry into a house of worship unless given prior permission in by the leader(s) of said house of worship?

I hear all the time about these fears of rising anti-semitism in the USA and they are indeed true. I witnessed this first hand at the hands of three anti-semitic neo-nazis who almost killed me, and even worse when the police came they weren’t much better and treated me as if I was the bad guy, despite being concussed, bloodied, and unable to breath out of my nose again until I had corrective surgery. On that day I was not carrying my firearm, I felt as if I didn’t need it that day, but ever since I certainly have.

We have to understand something very clearly in the USA and Europe that they have understood in Israel for a while: synagogues and all places of worship are soft targets. When I lived in Israel, attacks in a synagogue, even during the holiest times were incredibly rare. When I went to services all across Israel, I could spot at least several rifles and handguns holstered or shouldered. The reality is, despite what you see on the news regarding Israel, I felt safer in most of Israel than I do in many parts of the USA. We can’t stop all of the evil in the world, but what we can do is allow the good people in this world to be allowed to arm themselves for self-defense.

I am asking the Jewish communities to look to the Torah and what it teaches us in regards to self-defense. Self-defense is sacrosanct in Judaism that if you are unwilling to defend yourself or the lives of others to the best of your ability it is considered a sin, when we are to move into a new abode the first thing we are commanded to bring in is a weapon, and that when it comes to saving a life, all Jewish laws are to be overruled with exception to sexual sins, murder, and idol worship (Yes that means if we are given the choice of eating a Bacon double cheeseburger or saving yours or another life, you eat the damn burger).

If self-defense is such an important part of Judaism, why are there so many Rabbi’s who claim to espouse the beliefs and views of Judaism while demanding Jews disarm themselves or deride Jews like me who choose to arm themselves? We in the Jewish community need to take a stand in our synagogues and tell our Rabbis we want the right to defend our lives as prescribed by the Torah law and to have the leaders issue an open message that carrying a firearm as is legally permitted, will be allowed in your synagogue. I have been trying for years to get my local synagogues nearby to do such a thing, and so far only one of the orthodox synagogues has declared such a statement. But I know when I go to the synagogue there, that there are at least a half dozen who carry concealed of the 25-30 member congregation, some in their tallit (prayer shawl) bags, some under their suit, or elsewhere.

But the advantage for us is an attacker wouldn’t know who has a firearm, whereas an officer sticks out like a sore thumb. To cement this point of how inept some cops can be, a Rabbi told me there is a Synagogue here who hires an off-duty cop for security, the detective was in civilian clothing, but the license plate on their car said, “CPDDET” as in Columbus Police Department Detective. The detective was surprised as hell when the Rabbi approached the car and said, “How are you doing this Shabbas detective?”

In our respective congregations, or along with other congregations, we should organize and also work with experts to schedule training for active shooter and other terrorism situations. There are many companies out there offering these kinds of services so we can be best prepared. The reality of the world we live in today is whether we are Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, or another religion in America, we have a target on our back from both the left and the right for various reasons and both the left and right have proved to have mentally unstable individuals willing to kill people. Our current solution is to stick a sign outside our place of worship and bury our head in the sand. I’m not saying that everyone needs to carry a gun, I’m not saying this is a perfect solution, what I am saying is allow those of us who want to be able to stand on our feet to defend others to have the chance to do so. Because the current solution of not allowing the sane, mentally stable people with a proper moral compass to carry clearly has not worked out so well.

So please, let’s be realistic here people. Realize we are not in a perfect world, and there are no perfect solutions. But what is definitely not a solution is disallowing law-abiding individuals from even having the ability to have the means to protect themselves and others. Let’s work together as a community in each of our congregations to create systems to protect our congregations and work together with law enforcement officials to ensure everyone does their part to create the safest environment possible so when we go to our houses of God, we can focus on our connection to God, rather than worrying about if this could be my last time praying at a synagogue at all.

This article was written by Alon Ganon, CTO for


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