Here, Shabbat goes out with an AK47

By Ellen Tumposky, January 27, 2011
Meza in the AK-47 clip on YouTube

Meza in the AK-47 clip on YouTube

The Jewish community in Richmond, Virginia, is up in arms over a video posted on YouTube showing Orthodox worshippers passing around an AK-47 at prayers marking the end of Shabbat.

The video, made on January 8 - the day Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in Arizona - shows Asher Meza, an Orthodox convert, admiring the gun with other Jews worshipping at the home of Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski.

"This portrayal of gun worship by religious Jews is not only morally repugnant but violates the commandment to honour the Sabbath and keep it holy," said Tommy Baer, a Richmond attorney and former president of B'nai B'rith International.

Mr Meza is a former Baptist preacher from Miami who proselytises through websites like bejewish.org.

But he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "I'm not advocating for everyone to walk around with an AK-47, but I walk around with a handgun on the Sabbath, and I think it would be better if most Jews did."

Rabbi Kolakowski told the JC via Facebook that "this is really a very minor local matter" that is "mostly motivated by prejudice against our small Orthodox congregation by the larger Orthodox congregation - which isn't that large to begin with - in this town."

He said Mr Meza had mentioned to visitors from New York that he had a gun collection, and they asked to see it. "Rabbi Meza only felt so casual because it was a private home," said Rabbi Kolakowski.

But the more mainstream Jewish community remains unpersuaded. Rabbi Ben Romer of Or Ami, a Reform synagogue, said he had been a military chaplain for 22 years but never allowed a weapon into a place of worship. "It violates ethics, morals, Jewish tradition," he said.

    Last updated: 3:35pm, January 27 2011