Tuesday, February 25, 2020

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This past Shabbat Chanukah, Rabbi Pruzansky, in his eloquent, erudite approach to imparting concerns of important topics in the community, focused this week on the issue of defense in times of attack.

We all are terrorized with the current pervasive threat hovering around the world elicited by the seething anti-Semitism that has become ubiquitous. In the 20th century not that long ago, the horrific years of the Holocaust continue to haunt us. Our strong motto of “Never Again” needs to be reinforced more than ever, but with a desperate need for constructive solutions to realize our goals.

Rabbi Pruzansky clearly stated from the pulpit that each and every Jew has an obligation to fight back, to the point of questioning why after last week’s incident at Sammy’s Bagels on Queen Anne Road, the man was left with any teeth at all! Kudos to Rabbi Pruzansky for imparting a strong message to klal Yisrael. It was important to encourage strength and resilience. The reaction, of course, from the kehilla was mixed, since the variable of fear in fighting back was missing. Certainly when the perpetrators have a gun and/or knife, the strength and determination to react instinctively diminishes greatly.

The ra-ra of what we should be doing and the reality of what is taking place is miles apart. Rabbi Pruzansky is right that we are left with no choice but to totally confront the perpetrators, but what is needed as a priority is skill, experience and know-how.

I am proposing that every yeshiva and Jewish day school must, without any question, incorporate a strong self-defense program. It is no longer a luxury to give self-defense classes as an option, or to register in a Krav Maga class after school. Defense tactics, whatever they may be, must be ingrained in each and every child during their growing years. No longer will we be left helpless and vulnerable!

I call on all principals, administrators, teachers and staff to ensure that self-defense programs are implemented starting in kindergarten and up. Along with our strong values of mastering limudei kodesh and academic studies, self-defense classes must be part of the core curriculum and not an option after school hours.

My husband, Bobby, grew up on the Lower East Side. Walking the streets and parks in the city, Bobby and the RJJ chevra quickly learned to always be on guard to counter the attacks of gangs who would look to pick fights with the “Jews.” They were ingrained from a young age to protect themselves at all times. Bobby’s comment was always, “When the odds are right, just stay and fight. When the odds are wrong, just take flight. Growing up, they were always on high alert for self-protection. Now it is our generation’s turn to do the same.

We love our children and grandchildren too much to ignore that we need to act now to create a safe place for many generations to come.

Let’s be honest: We all know how cushy and comfortable life has become for our children, and that could be a good thing. However, they do live in an insulated world, and their main focus is their technologies. The children’s prime tool of defense is their cell phone and that will not suffice during times of terror and attack. We need to prepare our next generation to defend and protect. Only then in life do we have a fighting chance.

We do speculate whether these current incidences are fleeting and will dissipate over time or continue to escalate. Certainly there is no argument that the pattern of terror has been prevalent and getting worse, needing our immediate confrontation. The spectrum of all vulnerabilities have now spread from Brooklyn to Jersey City, California, Pennsylvania and beyond without any regard to age or locale. We are all vulnerable, and it’s time to start our attack by preparation and know-how.

Just the night of Rabbi Pruzansky’s encouragement to be strong in the face of danger, there were five stabbing victims in Monsey that very evening while they were celebrating Chanukah. Is it coincidental? Absolutely not! It’s called a pattern of hate we all have to own up to!

Parents, administrators: Starting now, let’s get these self-defense classes in our schools for all grades and then we can have the real tools, not only the rhetoric to uphold “Never Again”! Till then it’s all talk.

Ruby Kaplan