US Chabad rabbi teaches congregants to shoot firearms in response to synagogue attacks

Rabbi Raziel Cohen's plan to instruct members of his community to use guns has been condemned as 'potentially very, very dangerous'


A US rabbi has begun training members of his local community to shoot firearms in the wake of two fatal attacks in synagogues.

As well as being a Los Angeles-based Chabad minister, Raziel Cohen is also a security expert and certified shooting instructor, AFP reports.

He said the classes were designed to “bridge the gap” between the start of an attack and the police response.

Two US Jewish communities have been struck by mass shootings in the last 12 months. Eleven people died at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life shul in October, and a woman was killed in April’s attack on the Chabad of Poway congregation near San Diego.

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

Rabbi Cohen said: “The expression that goes on is that we carry guns because we can't carry police officers, which is not just a joke.

“The reality is that there can't be police everywhere all the time.

“One of the Ten Commandments that's taught very incorrectly is 'Thou shall not kill'. 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.”

But Ivan Wolkind, chief operating officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and founder of the federation's security program, warned against congregants using weapons in shul.

Mr Wolkind, a reserve officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, said: “I can't make a judgment as to whether or not people should have weapons in their place of worship.

“But what I can say is to have people carrying weapons without a huge amount of training... is potentially very very dangerous.”

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