Jewish Shame: Why Does A Jewish ‘Defense Organization’ Want To Put Jewish Lives At Risk?

Debbie Schlussel
in Jewish World Review Aug. 17, 1999 / 6 Elul, 5759– SURE, IT’S A TRAGEDY that Buford O. Furrow’s bullets struck human flesh at a North Los Angeles area Jewish Community Center (JCC). The shooter said he wanted to sound a “wake up call to America to kill Jews.” But what may be an even greater horror is that Jewish and other political leaders– such as the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman and President Clinton– are using this tragedy– using Jewish blood– to advance a political agenda with the goal of stripping our freedom and Second Amendment right to self-defense.

The fact is, Furrow was hell-bent on rampaging. He scouted out no less than three other Jewish institutions before settling on the JCC. There was one and only one reason he decided against the other sites: Armed personnel or security made his entry unfeasible. The saying, “the best offense is a good defense,” is not just a football slogan. It also applies to saving human lives.

But Foxman and Clinton want to take that right– the right to self-defense– away from us, the law-abiding citizens. They want to hand victory to Furrow from the jaws of defeat.

Contrary to Foxman’s and Clinton’s ill logic, if we are to ever restore peace to our streets, the right to keep and bear arms must be fully restored, not further restricted.

In nineteen states, the once unrestricted right to conceal and carry a weapon is being held hostage to an undemocratic permit process involving political favoritism and patronage as dispensed by bureaucratic gun boards. The Federal government could and should eradicate these boards and require issuing permits for all who qualify, as is currently the case in states like Florida, where a reduced crime rate followed passage of “conceal and carry legislation.”

The right to keep and bear arms has a great deal of significance to me for more poignant and personal reasons than a political agenda, reasons relating even to the Holocaust.

As a Jewish American, I am alive, today, because my maternal grandparents, Isaac and Adele Engel– and my mother, Toby, who was born in Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany– survived the Holocaust. I remember my late grandfather, a Rabbi by training, telling me about his experiences as a survivor of the Holocaust and its wretched concentration camps. He told me of Jewish efforts to form an underground army fighting Nazi tyranny against our people, and how his brother– my great-uncle– lost his life fighting in such an effort.

My grandfather told me about how the renowned Zionist leader, Vladimir “Ze’ev” Jabotinsky, who had emigrated to Israel, visited Nazi Europe just prior to the advent of the concentration camps and witnessed the anti-Semitism that was building throughout. In Yiddish, he warned, “Yiddin, learn tzoo shissin!”– “Jews, learn to shoot!” And he told Jews to get guns– the only way to protect themselves.

Though the Jewish underground agreed with Mr. Jabotinsky that guns were the only way they could protect themselves from the Nazis, they did not have access to guns and– though their efforts were valiant– they failed– six million Jews, and eleven million human lives, having perished at the fate of the Nazis.

When Mr. Jabotinsky returned, he lamented that Jewish efforts to learn to shoot and to obtain guns were too little too late.

My grandfather, having survived the Nazis, emigrated to the United States– to Michigan– with my grandmother and mother to start a new life. He became a shoichet– a kosher slaughterer, and when government regulation became unbearably burdensome, he became a kosher poultry distributor.

Throughout his life in America, from the 1950s to his death in 1992, my grandfather always owned guns for his personal protection and that of his family and business. I remember him saying that during the Detroit riots in the 1960s, the non-Jews were going to buy bullets to protect themselves and their families, while the Jews “Johnny-come-lately’s” when it came to self-defense– were only just buying their guns. Though he was a law-abiding, proud citizen, my grandfather found it necessary– as he went on his business deliveries and to his office in dangerous neighborhoods– to protect himself, and he carried his hidden gun at all times, in violation of Michigan law, which has no conceal and carry right without a bureacracy-induced permit.

This transgression of the law saved my grandfather’s life on several occasions. He recounted to me how he was accosted by youthful hoodlums and gangs, who demanded money, pulled out guns or knives, attempting to harm him. He pulled out his gun and the gang members ran away. This is why my grandfather was, to his death, always a strong proponent of protecting the right of citizens to keep and bear arms and the right to conceal and carry his weapon.

My grandfather’s successful attempts to save his life should not be against the law in this country. Like other innocent, hard-working, and law abiding citizens, even though the law allowed him to own the ammunition to protect himself, it did not allow him to lawfully conceal and carry it with him– like giving one the right to drink liquid, without allowing the use a cup or vessel to carry the liquid. The absence of the right to carry a concealed weapon– regular behavior for criminals with unregistered guns– forced my grandfather and many otherwise law-abiding U.S. citizens to choose between breaking the law and saving their lives. It’s time to put our innocent, law-abiding citizens on a level playing field with criminals. But Foxman and Clinton not only oppose restoration of the right to conceal and carry weapons, they want to take weapons– the tools of freedom and self-defense– away.

In 1997, dangerous, armed jewelry thieves escaped police and were at large overnight in my Detroit-area neighborhood. As a woman, I felt like a prisoner in my own home, because even though I had the right to keep and bear arms, I would be unable to legally and properly carry a concealed gun when leaving the confines of my home.

Let’s give all Americans the right to protect themselves to the fullest extent possible, so future Buford Furrows and other criminals don’t succeed. Let’s fully protect the right to defend ourselves, and make it mean something by passing Federal “conceal and carry” legislation. It would be the ultimate minority equalizer.

Messrs. Foxman and Clinton, you are free to give up your own weapons and security details, but you have no right to take them away from me. When others heed Furrow’s “wake up call to America to kill Jews,”– and it would be naive to think others won’t– how will I defend myself?

You’ve learned nothing from the Holocaust, and you don’t live in my neighborhood.

JWR contributor Debbie Schlussel is a Detroit-based sports and entertainment agent, attorney and commentator.