OpinionJewish Diaspora

Embracing empowerment

The case for Jewish self-defense training.

Shield of David Krav Maga training. Credit: Courtesy.
Shield of David Krav Maga training. Credit: Courtesy.
Steve Rosenberg
Steve Rosenberg
Steve Rosenberg is principal of the GSD Group and board chair of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. He is the author of Make Bold Things Happen: Inspirational Stories From Sports, Business and Life.

In a world where safety and security are paramount concerns, the Jewish community faces unique challenges that necessitate a proactive approach to self-defense.

Recent years have seen a troubling rise in violent attacks targeting Jewish communities around the world, highlighting the need for greater preparedness and resilience. In particular, the last six months have been a margin call for Jew-hatred across the Diaspora.

Whether this hatred takes the form of absurd college “protests” or attacks on the Orthodox community in Brooklyn, its very existence proves that the Jewish people must shed the cloak of fear and embrace a new paradigm of empowerment through self-defense training. Jews have been the victim for far too long and in too many circumstances.

While it is natural to feel fear in the face of threats, continuously vocalizing that fear can be counterproductive. It can perpetuate a sense of victimhood and helplessness, ultimately undermining the community’s ability to take action and protect itself. Instead of focusing on fear, the Jewish community should channel its energy into training and preparedness. There are too many social media posts about being afraid and not enough about taking action. Hiding in our homes and hoping law enforcement officials will save us is a strategy for failure. It didn’t work in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s and it won’t work today.

Self-defense training is not about promoting aggression or violence. It is about empowering individuals to protect themselves and their loved ones in dangerous situations. By learning basic self-defense techniques, individuals can increase their confidence and ability to respond effectively to threats. Moreover, self-defense training can help individuals recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations, reducing their overall risk of becoming victims.

Various organizations teach techniques like Run, Hide, Fight or Alert and Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate (ALICE). This training is often very valuable. Most notably, in 2018 the building that housed the Tree of Life synagogue had completed such training just days before a deranged gunman entered and killed 11 Jews on Shabbat.

The training methods mentioned above teach students how to confront an attacker via fight or counter. We must be knowledgeable about such techniques. We cannot all be tactically trained soldiers, but we also cannot and should not live in fear.

We must accept the fact that the threat of antisemitic violence is not going away anytime soon. We must learn from Israel, which is the gold standard of preparedness. Out of necessity, almost every Israeli is drilled in self-defense from an early age. American Jews must follow suit.  By cultivating a mindset of readiness, the Jewish community can increase its resilience and ability to respond effectively to threats.

Of course, self-defense training alone is not a panacea for the challenges facing the Jewish community. It is one piece of a larger puzzle that includes community engagement, advocacy and support. By embracing the principles of empowerment and preparedness, however, the Jewish community can take an important step towards reclaiming its sense of security and resilience in the face of adversity.

It is long past time for the Jewish community to shift its focus from fear to empowerment. By embracing self-defense training and mental preparedness, Jews can enhance their ability to protect themselves and their loved ones. It is time to stop talking about how scared we are and start taking action to ensure our safety and security.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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