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Jewish Community Under Attack

Jeff Katz
June 10, 2019 - 1:09 pm

Armed guards, safety assessments and now even a "Tactical Rabbi" to train volunteers on the use of weapons is the new norm today at synagogues in the United States facing a growing amount of anti-Semitic attacks.

Raziel Cohen, a Los Angeles rabbi dubbed the "Tactical Rabbi," carries a 9mm pistol on his hip and can even be seen wearing a semi-automatic rifle over his shoulder. Cohen is working to try and transform libraries at synagogues of Jewish schools into shelters in the event of an active shooter situation.

"The expression that goes on is that we carry guns because we can't carry police officers, which is not just a joke," Cohen said. "The reality is that there can't be police everywhere all the time."

Cohen is a rabbi for the Chabad-Lubavitch community in Los Angeles. Chabad is a sect of Hasidic Judaism, and Los Angeles is second only to Brooklyn, New York in its number of Chabad congregations.

Cohen wears many hats though. He is also a security expert and certified shooting instructor who has taken part in counter-terrorism courses given by retired and elite active-duty military personnel.

"One of the Ten Commandments that's taught very incorrectly is 'Thou shall not kill'," Cohen said. "It's not 'Thou shall not kill,' it's 'Thou shall not murder.'

"In fact, in the Bible it says that you have the obligation to protect yourself."

Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States remained at near-record high levels in 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which recorded 1,879 incidents, the third-highest level since the 1970s.

2017 had marked an unprecedented rise in such incidents, with 1,986 cases of harassment, vandalism or anti-Semitic attacks recorded.