Windows and Doors

This morning’s New York Post featured a banner headline: Go Ahead, Make My High Holiday. It tells the story of a bunch of well-intention knuckle heads, led by Rabbi Gary Moscowitz, a former member of the NYPD who was relieved of his duties for unspecified reasons. The group is doing “anti-terrorist training” and preparing to bring weapons to synagogue to deal with the possible threat of terrorism over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I am not sure which is worse, how stupid this is, or how dangerous.
I appreciate that they are driven by the desire to keep themselves and their loved ones safe on the holidays, but fighting terrorists is serious business and requires more than a few hours at a firing range and time spent doing stunts borrowed from Chuck Norris movies. In fact, the degree of personal frustration and anxiety which motivates these “guardians of our holy places”, is the opposite of what military training is designed to produce i.e. a calmly disciplined soldier who is there to do a job.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when armed guards at places of worship are genuinely needed, and I have even been the one to provide such services, albeit 25 years and 40 pounds ago, when living in Israel. I even appreciate the importance of a community working with the police and other relevant agencies to provide some of their own security needs.
It’s both empowering and healing for people who are threatened to take some control over the situation which threatens them. But a bunch of guys playing soldier, are more like to get an innocent person killed than anything else. Not to mention the incredible psycho-pathology which their comments reveal.

These self-described protectors of the Jewish people are filled with a toxic mix of false machismo (a result of thousands of years of Jewish powerlessness), contempt for Christianity (Moscowitz mocks those who believe in turning the other check), and genuine fear of what “some” Muslims want to do to them. Since those feelings run quite deep in parts of the Jewish community it’s sad but not surprising, that business is booming for Moscowitz’ “training” program.
There are real security needs for synagogues and they must be met. The NYPD and other security professionals are not only capable of meeting those needs; they are the only ones who should be meeting them. If Gary Moscowitz genuinely believes that they cannot because, as he said, “they don’t know the community”, his time would be better spent addressing why he and his friends have so little trust in New York’s finest and so much fear for their own safety in a city where Jews are safer than anywhere else in the world.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are actually times of great joy, times when we reaffirm our faith in ourselves, in each other, and in the ability to start over. We should not be naïve about the real challenges we face, but neither should we use these holidays when more Jews come together than at any time of the year, to undermine that powerful message.

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