In an effort to decrease violence and protect his people… this rabbi took on a mission to train the masses. 

 

Over the last few years we’ve seen places that used to be protected from violence become the scene of ruthless attacks time and again.

Whether churches, hospitals, schools or other public arenas… the threat is real.

That’s why many businesses and churches have turned to taking active shooter training courses, so citizens know how to act if the worse were to happen.

Now, a man known as the ‘Tactical Rabbi’ is helping synagogues train to protect themselves from anti-Semitic violence. 

Places of worship have become targeted areas for violence. (Wikipedia)

 

His name is Rabbi Raziel Cohen, and he’s not going to sit quietly while innocent lives are in danger.

“We don’t want to be victims,” Cohen said. “We need to protect ourselves now.”

Since the deadly Chabad of Poway shooting, and just months after the Pittsburgh massacre, Chabad leaders in California have been pushing to secure public safety grants and to keep their worshippers feeling secure and calm. They have already pushed hundreds of participants through active-threat training and community defense drills.

“If a person in your synagogue is going to carry, I’m great with it, but he has to be trained,” said the Tactical Rabbi.

 

Chabad is a sect of Hasidic Judaism, with L.A. boasting the largest community outside of Brooklyn.

Some look at Cohen’s tactics as over the top, saying that guns are not the answer.

“The solution is never the gun,” said Rabbi Avraham Zajac of L.A.

But Cohen staunchly defends his cause.

“In Jewish law, going back to the Torah, first and foremost is protecting lives. Everything else is secondary. And in the world we live in today, we need to focus on saving lives and keeping people safe.”

During his training sessions, Cohen asks attendees if they believe more people should be armed while they attend synagogue. Most say yes. 

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But Cohen says that the synagogue’s worshippers should be handling security. He argues that the vested interest in the people and their loved ones is why armed worshippers are better equipped to handle a threat than a paid guard. 

“The benefit of having an individual in the synagogue with a gun is that they’re fighting for something,” Cohen said. “They’re much more willing to defend their kids than a person who is being paid $15 an hour.”

 

Grants for safety have recently been issued by the Department of Homeland Security to help neutralize deadly threats, but until last month, the grants could not be used to pay for armed guards.

Church officials have alternatively been using other means to keep their congregation safe. Some use grant money for camera systems, others use camouflage. Most gathering places are completely faceless on the outside, giving no indication that parishioners are inside. Buildings are often disguised as abandoned, but usually are packed to the brim inside the walls. 

At one downtown synagogue, armed volunteers come each week to keep watch while others pray.

“We have 36 volunteers — both men and women — who come every week,” the synagogue’s rabbi said. “They’re very vigilant, they’re very aware. They have a very sophisticated communication with each other and the LAPD.”

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