Jews of all ages and degrees of religiosity are learning to protect themselves—because, they believe no one else will.
Due to a significant rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S., Jews are seeking the skills and know-how to defend themselves and their communities against violent assaults.
“I think Jews are realizing that if you’re in America, you’re a target,” said Jon Loew, the founder of Legion, a New York-based nonprofit that trains Jews in self-defense.
Loew recently spoke with the Algemeiner about recent attacks, such as the recent deadly shooting in a Jersey City kosher market and a brutal machete attack in Monsey, which have forced Legion to expand its offerings due to rising demand for self-defense training in the community.
“If you’re in New York, you’re even more of a target. If you’re a Jew in New York, you are the bullseye,” Loew added.
The 9-month training program, taught by experts in the field and law-enforcement officials since 2015, includes physical self-defense, situational awareness training, emergency first aid, active shooter response, Krav Maga fighting, anti-terrorism principles and Jewish history.
Jews of all ages and degrees of religiosity are signing up. There are both mixed and separate classes for men and women, with Orthodox Jewish women wearing traditional modest dress, including a head covering and skirt, during training sessions.
All participants don a black t-shirt with a white Star of David that says, “From Strength Comes Freedom,” in Hebrew and English.
“It’s the idea that we’re not going to be sheep; we’re going to be lions,” Arielle Mogil, Legion’s vice president of operations, said, according to WNYC News. “We’re gonna train and learn how to defend ourselves so people won’t come after us anymore. That strength will give us the freedom.”
The impetus for the surge in training may be a fear that the community cannot count outside forces to protect them, especially following the shooting in Jersey City that left a police officer and three civilians dead and the machete attack in Monsey, New York, where the perpetrator entered a private home during a Chanukah celebration.
According to the NYPD, anti-Semitic hate crimes citywide went up 26 percent in 2019.
Legion classes are already available in six locations. The organization plans to expand into more communities with large Jewish populations annually.
In the face of rising anti-Semitic attacks, especially in the Tri-state area, its next chapter will open in Crown Heights, New York. That city is the center of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which has faced persistent attacks for years.
“Up to this point anti-Semitism has been that swastika on the college campus or someone calling someone a ‘dirty Jew,’” Meredith Weiss, a Legion co-founder, said, according to WNYC. “When you go beyond words, it’s a whole different ball game.”