Yidl, Get Your Gun

Yidl, Get Your Gun

But don’t forget your God

In the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, and the vile antisemitism that has since surfaced in our beloved American diaspora and elsewhere, many Jewish individuals—my wife included—feel the call to get a gun as a means of self-defense. You hear about it in shuls, and read about it in Jewish magazines and newspapers. Even in the hallowed precincts of Torah-towns like Lakewood and Passaic, New Jersey, and Monsey, New York, one can hear just above a whisper: We need to get a gun.

Even those who won’t actually get a gun license or ever shoot a pistol—Jewish urbanites, the high-rise dwellers of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Miami Beach, or Lincolnwood, Illinois—feel somehow, somewhere in that (often disavowed) place where human aggression resides: I’d sure like to feel the cool comfort of a 9 mm Glock right now. Some have even advocated for a new Jewish armed-defense organization.

All this talk reminds me of a lesson I learned in high school in the late 1970s. At that time, the Jewish Defense League was ascendant, along with its slogan: “Never Again.” The group’s logo is still instantly recognizable: a meaty, masculine fist against a background of the Star of David.

The JDL was founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1968 and its stated goal was to protect Jews from all forms of antisemitism “by whatever means necessary.” The idea was that never again would we, the Jews, go like sheep to the slaughter; never again would we be the wards of the world, displaced, defenseless, vulnerable to the whims and the caprices of sinister or indifferent world powers.

The JDL was initially seen as a godsend at a time of crisis for Jews in the urban enclaves of Crown Heights, East Flatbush, and Far Rockaway in New York; Boyle Heights and Fairfax in Los Angeles; Skokie, outside Chicago; and other areas where, in Martin Luther King’s phrase, “a marvelous new militancy” had taken hold among other ethnic groups as well. This militancy pitted Jews and other minorities against each other.

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None.  Jews face hate on all sides of every aisle.  Our plight transcends politics.


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