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A Jew with guns and no apologies | Stu Bykofsky

The truth is some Jews, such as myself, were armed long before the Pittsburgh massacre.

Columnist Stu Bykofsky explains why he is comfortable with firearms
Columnist Stu Bykofsky explains why he is comfortable with firearmsRead moreGet Later / Staff

The subject: Jews with guns.

They go together like bagels and rocks.

Everyone knows guns are anathema to American Jews.

Like most stereotypes, it contains some truth, but what has been true is changing.

My colleague Samantha Melamed's story Monday probably surprised some: In response to the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh, the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history, some Philly-area Jews are arming up.

The truth is, some Jews, such as myself, were armed long before the Pittsburgh massacre. And we did not take up arms because of anti-Semitism, which is an abhorrent but minor slice of our American pie.

Yes, reported hate crimes against Jews jumped 57 percent in 2017. The actual numbers are less scary: They went from 1,267 incidents to 1,986. That is fewer than 2,000 incidents in a country of 325 million people. Even when they march with tiki torches, they are a lunatic fringe.

In 1968, specific attacks on or threats against Jewish institutions led to formation of the Jewish Defense League, which calls itself a self-defense organization but also has been called a right-wing extremist group. It urges all Jews to own firearms.

I bought my first pistol about 25 years ago and got a carry permit because my life had been threatened in connection with my job, not my religion. Since neither my employer nor the police can give me 24/7 protection, I have to look out for No. 1.

I received credible threats at other times, one resulting in the incarceration of a man with mental issues who also threatened three other Daily News staffers.

I own several handguns because each has a specific purpose. And, no, my liberal friends, a gun's purpose is not to "kill." It is to defend, to protect. I am trained, I know the law, and I am comfortable packing. The gun is a last resort.

A few Jewish friends, professional people, have guns. Only one says he carries because he fears anti-Semitism. Hearing him say that surprised me, as did Molly Eichel's recent column about feeling less safe.

I don't share that fear. Why? Maybe I feel more safe because I am armed.

I am puzzled by the aversion many Jews have to firearms.

How do you explain a group so persecuted throughout history being so irrationally opposed to self-protection? Does it go back to the futility of arming yourself against a host country when you are a tiny minority?

Could Jews have resisted Nazi Germany when the government had all the guns? Probably not.

Millions of my people were pushed into gas chambers or shot into enormous pits. After the killing ended, the world chanted, "Never again." To me that means, never again be so helpless.

During the Holocaust, Jews did fight and die on their feet — notably in the Warsaw ghetto — when they got guns. Were they so different?

What explains the antipathy of today's Jews toward guns? A group called Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership seems to blame liberalism.

A different explanation was offered by a friend, Rabbi Bob Alper.

Jews were never hunters, he told me.

"Because they were prohibited from having guns?" I asked.

"Not so much that," he said.

In the old days, Jews were observant. Any flesh they ate had to be slaughtered according to strict dietary laws. Anything killed with a gun was not kosher, and couldn't be eaten.

So Jews' estrangement from firearms is traditional and long-standing.

But it is not immutable.

One horrifying rampage in Pittsburgh doesn't change the reality that America is a safe haven for Jews.

But if a Jew wants to pack insurance, who am I — or are you — to say no?