The 'Tactical Rabbi' Is a Synagogue Shooter's Worst Nightmare


After every tragic event, nearly everyone asks the same question: “How did this happen?”

Then comes the public promise of “never again.” The people who say it usually mean it, but unless a plan is put in place, the same horrors can repeat themselves.

A Jewish rabbi in California is working overtime to make sure that synagogue shootings truly happen never again. Instead of just talking, he’s taking hands-on action by training community members for armed self-defense.

Rabbi Raziel Cohen is a west coast religious security expert, who goes by the moniker “Tactical Rabbi.” He’s one of several professionals within the Jewish community who have been getting attention since the deadly Chabad of Poway attack which occurred near the end of April.

“Who thinks, by show of hands, that we should be carrying more guns in shul?” Cohen asked attendees at a seminar organized at a synagogue on Wednesday, according to The Los Angeles Times.

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Around 50 percent of the Jewish group raised their hands, the newspaper reported, making it clear that many in that religious community are seeing legally-owned guns as a key part of keeping their people safe.

“We don’t want to be victims,” Cohen said. “We need to protect ourselves now.” Cohen is both the owner and the founder of the National Defensive Firearms Training Academy.

The “Tactical Rabbi” believes that anybody who is going to bear arms should be trained, but pointed out the advantage of arming congregants instead of relying on paid security guards.

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“The benefit of having an individual in the synagogue with a gun is that they’re fighting for something,” Cohen said. “They’re much more willing to defend their kids than a person who is being paid $15 an hour.”

And though the left hates to admit it, armed citizens have stopped or derailed mass shootings in the past. The actual evidence shows that effective resistance — which includes armed responders — can help end mass shootings fast.

“Armed and unarmed citizens engaged the shooter in 10 incidents,” according the an FBI study of 2016 and 2017 mass shootings.

“They safely and successfully ended the shootings in eight of those incidents,” the report said. “Their selfless actions likely saved many lives.”

That report, which we highlighted when it was released, confirmed that prepared and trained armed citizens can make a difference during a mass shooting.

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“The enhanced threat posed by active shooters and the swiftness with which active shooter incidents unfold support the importance of preparation by law enforcement officers and citizens alike,” the FBI found.

That means consultants like Cohen are in high demand, especially in areas of the country which do not have strong firearms or tactical cultures. At the local level, Jewish leaders are scrambling to find security solutions that don’t come with million-dollar price tags.

“There are some buildings out here with an annual quarter-million-dollar security budget,” said Rabbi Yossi Eilfort, who helps run a California religious security firm called Magen Am.

“I grew up with Chabad, and our buildings are mostly not playing in that ballpark [price range], so we need to find other security solutions,” Eilfort pointed out.

Armed members of the congregation could be part of that answer.

Hopefully, the Jewish community will be able to find the security approach that they need to worship in peace. One thing is certain: Ignoring the threats posed to synagogues will not make the problem go away, and real-world changes are needed to keep the “never again” promise.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.