In the aftermath of the targeted killing of Orthodox Jews in Jersey City, Rabbi Gary Moskowitz, a former New York Police officer and trainer, taught a class in ax-throwing. The response was overwhelming.
Rabbi Moskowitz is the director of the American Jewish Security Council, a not-for-profit based in Forest Hills, New York dedicated to protecting Jews in the exile from anti-Semitic attacks. His courses are taught in The organization has a multi-pronged approach. With the goal of establishing a unit of trained civilians to protect every house of worship and religious school, they offer training programs including a 100-hour intensive course which includes combat weapons and apprehension and a 50-hour Religious Security Certification Course (RSC).
“While we encourage all members of the council to work with local law enforcement it must be understood that in the event of a terror attack, zero response time is needed,” the site warns. “If no one is available to engage immediately the police will only be able to take body account reports.”
The organization also advocates for legislation that would help prevent anti-Semitic attacks.Moskowitz is lobbying for “premise permits” that would allow Jews to take their weapons to the synagogue.
But the 62-year old rabbi, a seventh-degree black belt, maintains that taking martial arts training is a necessary measure.
“The situation in Jersey City changed everything. In a few lessons and with practice, this is the quickest way for Jewish people to have a chance to mitigate terror and murder. At least they’ll have a fighting chance,” Moskowitz told The New York Post. “Civilians need training. No one can help you but yourself — you need zero response time.”
The two-hour course was given on Monday night in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the appropriately named Beth Jacob Ohev Sholom (House of Jacob, lover of peace). The course focused on throwing techniques utilizing axes, spears, mallets, bricks, and weights.
“I’m teaching people to throw axes — it’s a fatal strike with immediate stopping power. If you shoot someone, it could take a while. When you get struck with an ax, it’s game over,” he said, adding that it’s easier to train someone to throw a light ax than to use a gun.
“We’re not looking to kill people, we’re looking to stop them,” he added, noting an additional benefit of ax training.
“No one’s going to get a gun permit in NYC, so why teach it to someone in NYC when they can’t carry it in NYC?”
Moskowitz grew up in the Soundview section of the Bronx, a tough neighborhood with few Jews. He wore a yarmulke and learned martial arts out of necessity. The training came in handy when he became a New York cop.
He also teaches Martial Arts Therapy for children fighting cancer and other illnesses, offering emotional and spiritual support to children and helps them to take an active role to become a partner in their own healing process.