Last Thursday marked the start of the Jewish month of Elul, the
month during which Jews traditionally search their souls in
preparation for the New Year. It's a time for introspection and
self-examination, for resolving differences with others, for
attempting to correct our errors, for asking forgiveness of those
we may have harmed, and for granting forgiveness to those who ask
As always, my list of failings and shortcomings is long, and I
have much work to do. But this year, I've got an additional
problem. I'm angry at my fellow Jews. And as long as I'm angry,
how can I ask G-d, or anyone else, to forgive me? Of course you
don't know that I'm angry or why I'm angry. So I suppose I need
to tell you, which is why I'm writing this. After that, it's up
Much of this is harsh. I fully expect to be condemned for
writing it, and "speaking ill" of my fellow Jews. But I believe
that I have an obligation to preserve Judaism and Jewish life,
and that obligation supercedes any obligation to be "polite".
Please remember that I love you; it's your behavior and attitudes
that I don't understand. And if this angers or hurts you, please
let me know and I will do what I can to make things right. This
is, G-d willing, a time for healing.
Monday, children and parents returned to the North Valley Jewish
Community Center outside Los Angeles. Less than a week before,
an avowed "white supremacist" attacked the center and shot five
people. The kids wore brightly colored hair for "Crazy Hair
Day", and were accompanied by clowns and magicians. The media
portrayed it as a happy ending to a tragic event.
But I'm still grieving. I keep thinking of my two bright, sweet,
loving nieces who could just as easily have been victims. Like
the children in LA, they attend a Jewish day camp in a state
where citizens are barred from possessing any means of
self-defense; their parents are ardent supporters of gun control.
I think of little Amanda Gottlieb, age 4, who, the reports say,
"stood helplessly in the center's lobby just 20 feet from the
gunman-- as he fired 70 shots and wounded a 68-year-old
receptionist, a 16-year-old counselor and three boys". The poor
kid, and her friends, must be terrified. Yet, her parents
dropped her off (or is that abandoned her?) with assurances that
"mommy would stay with her for a while". Meanwhile, the JCC
staff assures her that the attacker, Buford O. Furrow Jr., is a
What is wrong with these people?! Buford Furrow, who has
admitted to the attack, was very clear that he hoped to incite
all-out genocide against Jews. He said he wanted his act "to be
a wake-up call to America to kill Jews", and the media did their
best to help him communicate this agenda to others. While
Furrow's actions were monstrous, he's hardly the type of monster
that hides under kids' beds and in their closets. He's quite
real, and there are a lot of other very real people like him.
Parents can protect their kids from bogeymen with fairy dust and
nightlights, but that won't work on murderous criminals. To
ignore this unpleasant fact is suicidal.
So is Amanda safe at the JCC? Are my nieces safe at their day
camp? No! There are thousands of people out there who would
like to kill Jews. Even if there are no immediate copy-cat
crimes, sooner or later another hate-filled person will attack.
And what will mommy do if the JCC is attacked again? Scream?
Cry? Pray? Die while shielding Amanda with her own body, thus
leaving her motherless? Is dying along with our kids the best
solution we can devise to combat murderous attacks?
Yes, clowns and balloons may make kids feel safe. But we have
the responsibility to make sure our children really are safe.
Children are perceptive enough to sense when the adults around
them are lying or fearful, so make-believe won't work. What are
you doing to keep our kids safe? What are you willing to do?
If Amanda were my child, she'd hear the following: "Honey, there
are some very bad people in the world. Some of these people hate
people like us who are Jewish. They don't know what a special,
wonderful, little girl you are. They don't understand that G-d
loves you, and that we love you. We never thought that such a
bad person would try to hurt you and your friends. But he did,
and so grownups have to do some things to help you to stay safe.
"We love you, and we're not ever going to let anyone hurt you.
So to make sure you're safe, Mommy's going to stay at school with
you today. So is Lisa's mommy. You know that we keep guns at
home so no bad guys can come in the house and hurt us. Well,
Mommy's going to take that gun to school, and Lisa's mommy will
take her gun to school. In fact, there will be mommies and
daddies with guns at the school every day. And we're going to
teach the teachers about guns too, so they can protect you
against bad guys. And when the bad guys find out, they'll be too
scared to come to your school.
Someday, when you're a big girl, we'll teach you how to use a gun
too. But for now, you need to remember that you can't touch a
gun unless Mommy or Daddy says it's okay. Do you remember your
gun safety rules?..."
But instead of doing anything to make kids safe, I see you
tripping all over each other to advocate more gun control and
more hate crimes legislation. You're like lemmings rushing to
jump over a cliff. You're making the world more dangerous for
children, and probably contributing to future genocides.
Refusing to protect your children is endangering them. Teaching
them that their role as Jews is to be helpless victims is child
abuse. No matter how much you love them, if you're not willing
or able to keep them safe, you're not fulfilling your
responsibilities as parents.
You will, no doubt, respectfully disagree, and hurry off to your
next gun control meeting. But this is not a "difference of
opinion". Pacifism is not "an alternative strategy". Cowardice
is not a value-neutral choice. Refusing to defend yourself and
your children is, although I hate to say it, a sin.
As Jews, we are commanded to preserve life. The Talmud teaches
that "If a man rises up to kill you, kill him first". We are
commanded to possess the means to defend ourselves, our families,
our communities, and all innocent persons. The Torah teaches us
that "The Children of Israel were armed when they went up from
the land of Egypt", because the difference between slaves and
free people is that free people can defend themselves. The
stories of Hanukkah and Purim also teach us that we need to be
armed and prepared to defend ourselves and our religion. Nothing
in Jewish law advocates, or even condones, pacifism.
For those of you who insist that "that was then and this is now",
we also have modern day experience. Hitler and Stalin first
disarmed the Jews and then murdered them. Israeli teachers and
parents are armed; their children, schools and synagogues are
safe. American Jews support victim disarmament. In the past few
months, synagogues have been fire-bombed, and Jews have been shot
in both Chicago and Los Angeles.
Yet most Jews, along with every major Jewish organization, are
crying for "more gun control" and for "hate crimes" legislation,
as the solution to the problem. (Does anyone think hate crimes
legislation would have deterred Furrow?) The message you are
sending to your fellow Jews, and your children, is clear: "If a
vicious criminal wants to kill you, lie down and die, so that we
can convict him of a "hate crime". If you dare to defend
yourself, we'll arrest and punish you." Is this a sane policy
for our survival? Is it the legacy we wish to leave for future
generations? Will a hate crime conviction bring back the dead?
Worse, the very concept of "hate crimes" is offensive because it
is philosophically indistinguishable from that of the haters.
Both the haters and the hate crimes advocates believe that "some
people are better (or worse) than others." Hate groups believe
that some people are inferior or "less than human" and should be
exterminated. Hate crimes advocates believe that some people are
"better" than others, deserve special protection, and that anyone
who harms them should receive particularly harsh punishment. Both
are entirely wrong. All people have equal rights, and all people
are entitled to equal protection under the law. Someone who
kills a man for his wallet is not "better" than someone who kills
a man because of his religion or race.
Buford O. Furrow's attack on Jews was not a random crime of
violence. He specifically chose to target Jews and hoped that
others would follow his example. There are a lot of people out
there who want to kill us - and they believe they have good
reasons for doing so. So I'm going to wander into some very
dangerous territory here and try to examine why Furrow, and so
many other people in the United States, hate Jews and are willing
to engage in violence against us. While much of the hatred is
madness, there is some method to it as well.
I don't agree with, or condone, Furrow's beliefs or actions,
which are completely inexcusable. While it may be stupid and
self-destructive to refuse to defend yourself, it's not a capital
crime and it doesn't justify murder. Likewise, no matter how
offensive someone else's beliefs are, violence is not an
acceptable solution. Violence is justified only in self-defense
or the defense of another.
While so-called "white supremacist" ideology is offensive at
best, Americans have the right to believe whatever they wish. If
people want to believe that Jews are the "spawn of Satan", or
that Blacks are "mud people", they have the right to do so, as
long as they don't resort to violence. Likewise, if people want
to believe that they are a "chosen people" or that Jesus was not
the Son of G-d, they have the right to do so. Both Jews and
white supremacists hold non-mainstream beliefs. So
theoretically, it is in each group's best interest to support the
right to hold minority beliefs.
Violently attacking people is inexcusable and intolerable. But
so is trying to criminalize and silence groups with which you
don't agree. Yet you advocate outlawing so-called "white
supremacist", "neo-Nazi", "Christian Identity" and other "hate
groups". You pressure the government to infiltrate and spy on
such groups. You advocate internet censorship of web sites with
which you don't agree. You lobby for "hate crimes" legislation.
Whatever you think of "white supremacists", you're overlooking a
very basic truth. If you try to eliminate them, they will try to
eliminate you - and they don't share your professed abhorrence of
And do you truly abhor violence, or are you simply unwilling, or
afraid, to engage in it yourself? Demanding that others shoot
your enemies for you is still advocating violence.
Virtually every synagogue and Jewish center has demanded, and
gotten, increased police protection. If you hate violence, and
hate guns, why do you want so many armed police around? Do you
trust them more than you trust your fellow Jews? If so, why?
Too many Jews have also firmly allied themselves with the
ultra-liberal left. It's bad enough that Jews have historically
supported both socialism and Communism. Now, you work to
eliminate free speech and enforce political correctness and
multiculturalism. You mistake forced collectivism for charity.
You wholeheartedly endorse victim disarmament. You support
ever-expanding government powers in the false belief that big
government can, or will, protect you from all enemies. These are
not religious beliefs; they are political beliefs, and you
confuse them at your peril.
Absolutely nothing in Jewish law justifies these positions.
While Jewish law mandates justice, it does not advocate special
treatment. It forbids pacifism and mandates self-defense. It
opposes collectivism, and defends private property rights. It
opposes "multiculturalism" in favor of a discrete, and separate,
Jewish people with their own religion and customs.
Many people consider this left-liberal political agenda to be
un-American, and for the most part I agree. Yet when anyone
dares to honestly question or object to your political agenda,
as opposed to your religious beliefs, you accuse him of being
an "anti-Semite" or "another Hitler". And if other Jews, no
matter what their religious beliefs, disagree with your agenda,
as I do, you treat them like heretics. Shrieking "Jew-killer" is
not "political debate", nor is it conducive to good relationships
with others. Sooner or later, your victims (yes, Jews can
victimize others!) will recognize your emotional blackmail for
what it is, and it will not endear you to them.
You have the right to believe anything you wish. You have the
right to do anything you wish, so long as you don't attack
others. Most Americans will defend that right. But you need to
understand that your beliefs, and especially your actions, have
consequences. Believe it or not, some people hate you for what
you do, not because you're Jewish.
People have hated Jews and sought to kill us throughout Jewish
history-- nearly 6000 years. It's not a new phenomenon. Yet it
seems we are unable to learn from experience.
Jews have never been "safe" for very long anywhere. Every
so-called "safe haven" eventually turned on us and persecuted us:
Egypt, Spain, Greece and Germany come to mind. Why do you
believe you'll always be safe here? No government, including
that of the United States, has ever been willing to protect or
defend us. Why are you so eager to surrender all means of
self-defense? The police have absolutely no obligation to
protect you or your children, and in case you forgot, they stood
outside while children in Colorado were murdered. No one cares
about Jewish children more than their parents. But if we're not
willing to defend ourselves, no one else will do it for us.
I grieve for the victims of hatred in Chicago and Los Angeles,
especially the children who are too young even to understand why
they were so brutally attacked. I fear that more children will
be killed or injured because of the inability or unwillingness of
their parents to provide them with the reality of safety instead
of nice-sounding words and smiling clowns. I fear that their
suffering will have been in vain, and that we will never learn.
I fear that misguided parents will teach their children that
self-defense is wrong and guns are evils to be hated and feared.
Children need to know that self-defense is a natural human right,
and an obligation under Jewish law. They need to learn that
guns, like all tools, can be used for good or evil, must always
be treated with respect and care, and are the best form of
self-defense available. They need to know that their parents
will do everything possible to keep them safe.
I fear that yet another generation of Jews will conclude that
their only legitimate role in this world is the role of
Above all, I fear that by enthusiastically supporting universal
victim disarmament, Jews, and especially Jewish leaders, will
succeed in encouraging yet another Holocaust.
And so, at this time of the year especially, I beg you to
re-examine your values and beliefs as critically as you possibly
can. Are they consistent with Jewish law, or are they merely
"politically correct"? Do they promote a strong, independent,
vibrant Jewish community, do they promote fear and weakness, do
they promote assimilation? How carefully have you studied the
issues involved? Have you listened with an open mind and an open
heart to both sides, or unthinkingly accepted that "all Jews
believe X"? Most important, pray to G-d for guidance and
May you, and all Jews, and all people of good will, be inscribed
for a New Year of life, health, peace and happiness.
© 1999 Sarah Thompson, M.D.
Sarah Thompson, M.D., a retired physician and writer, is dedicated to the
restoration of full civil liberties and limited Constitutional government.
She writes a column, The Righter, which focuses on civil liberties and
individual responsibility and action. Visit
her site, send your love her way, and THANK GOODNESS we have such a
wonderful Leader among us!