They call themselves The International Security Coalition of Clergy.
But you can think of them as The God Squad — armed rabbis and priests ready to leap from the bimah, or the pulpit, to tackle and kill terrorists.
The coalition is led by Rabbi Gary Moscowitz, 52, a fast-talking martial arts instructor and former New York police officer, who says he can transform the average synagoguegoer into a fighting machine, trained in unarmed combat and weapons.
“Jews are not like Christians,” he says. “If we turn our cheek, we are spinning around to make a kick.”
He launched the Tzedek Task Force on Counter Terrorism in 1997. Since then, he has issued dire warnings of Muslim extremists, foreign and domestic, intent on killing American Jews.
He says that few people took him seriously until earlier this year, when the FBI arrested a four-man terrorist cell plotting to blow up two synagogues, in Riverdale, in the Bronx, and to shoot down a plane.
“After Riverdale my phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” he said. To guard against future attacks, he has launched a 100-hour course in what he calls “Combat Shooting and Apprehension”.
“Clergy must protect their flock from both spiritual and mortal dangers. This group of religious leaders is the sheepdogs and shepherds for the sheep they lead,” he wrote in a press release.
Rabbi Moscowitz is also calling for synagogues and centres to purchase bullet-proof tables so they can be utilised as cover, “and bullet proof windows to prevent further injuries in case of terror attacks with guns and bombs.”
Since individuals in the UK cannot carry handguns, he says that he can teach Brits how to throw pool balls or heavy rocks — which “can be deadly”.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Moscowitz is pushing for a new law that would allow at least five trained people in every synagogue and Jewish day school in New York State to carry a gun.
He says the New York Police Department is unqualified to guard synagogues or schools because officers do not recognise strangers in the community, they are not trained to shoot moving targets and they are unfit.
“Look around the police department,” he says. “These guys can’t run a half mile. They’re nebachs.”