(October 30, 2018 / JNS) Not half a day had passed since the wanton carnage at the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh when the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council was already transforming the tragedy into a campaign issue. Drawing on the topic of gun control, the JCRC was callously manipulating the tragedy to steer its community towards the Democrats.
At a time that called for reflection, sympathy and prayer, the SFJCRC couldn’t wait to launch a call for gun control as a solution to innocent and vulnerable Jews slaughtered like animals in a charnel house.
In an email to the community, the local JCRC suggested that recipients follow a link to a National Public Radio listing of candidate positions on gun control. Of course, Democrats support nearly every form of gun control, effective or not, meaningful or symbolic.
What gun-control measures would have prevented the slaughter in Pittsburgh? The community is advised to embrace gun control and to follow the NPR link to discover which California politicians have supported such measure.
Does the JCRC tell the community to vote Democratic? Of course not– it’s too sophisticated to risk its tax-exempt status. But you’d have to be lacking in reading comprehension or nurturing an IQ at room temperature not to see the grand design of the missive.
The content and timing of the email was grotesque. It was as shameless as it was unnecessary in a one-party state where Jews already vote Democratic like lemmings.
The JCRC chose to ignore the rich tradition of Jewish literature, philosophy, ethics and even Torah, from which it might have drawn inspiration to commemorate the solemnity of the tragedy and give solace to the community. Instead, it chose to stand egregiously on 11 corpses and transform their deaths into an issue of gun control. And that issue is conveniently linked to a website that advocates for Democrats.
If the JCRC was just going to indulge in public policy, then why did it not propose solutions grounded in increased armed security for synagogues or advocate active-shooter response protocols like those taught to schoolchildren? Why did it not suggest physical barriers as solutions to the threat of active shooters? The answer is obvious. None of those issues would have so directly led to a cleverly veiled partisan endorsement, as does a missive on gun control linked to an NPR chart.
Jews might learn something about self-defense from Muslims. In April of 2016, an anti-Muslim group stood armed outside a mosque in South Dallas to intimidate the worshippers. To their shock and dismay, the intimidators were confronted by heavily armed worshippers.
Given the tragic history of minorities in this country, should not minorities—Jews among them—be in the front lines of gun ownership? Maybe Jewish worshippers should be as armed as the Muslims of South Dallas.
Not all California Jews share the SFJCRC’s view of guns. Bullets and Bagels in Los Angeles is a predominantly Jewish gun club that is also open to non-Jews who want to shoot with Jews, not at them. In the hills of rural Pennsylvania, Gideon Imunim teaches Israeli shooting tactics and advocates for Jews owning and carrying guns.
If an armed guard might have made a difference at the Tree of Life Synagogue, imagine how much difference an armed congregation would make.
The SFJCRC could not contemplate suggesting that Jewish congregations should send volunteers to Gideon Imunim’s training camp northeast of Scranton, or for a “shmear” and some shooting at L.A.’s “Bagels and Bullets.” Those behaviors would have real consequences for Jewish security, unlike the passage of more anti-gun legislation that would be as effective as anti-drug legislation has been, especially in California.
Some respect for common decency and the dead should have restrained the public-policy discussion at least until the dead were interred. This, however, is an election year, and the JCRC has as much respect for those who would cling to their guns and Bibles as did Barack Obama.
Too many Jews are of the mentality that advocating for gun control and posting gun-free zone posters is the way to prevent the next attack. All that will do is to produce vulnerable targets. The solution to the problem is for Jews to start thinking pragmatically about security and not about political nostrums.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the news and public-policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him @salomoncenter.