This piece first appeared in The Times of Israel.
Gary Moskowitz, a rabbi and sensei teaching martial arts to Orthodox children in Flushing, Queens, thinks religious intolerance has little if nothing to do with the fact that a large proportion of recent “knockout game” attacks victims have been Orthodox Jews. As he sees it, Orthodox Jews are being targeted for the simple fact that they are not physically fit.
“Jews are literally a weak target,” he tells The Times of Israel.
Moskowitz, a 56-year-old former NYPD officer, grew up a kippah-wearing boy in the Bronx in the 1960s. He learned the only way for him to survive the mean streets was to fight back against bullies who attacked him, including one who threw his skullcap on the ground and urinated on it. Now, many years later, he believes it is still important for Jews to know how to fend off attackers.
Despite Moskowitz’s street cred, professional and educational accomplishments, and black belts in multiple martial arts, he says many rabbis and teachers find his zeal to teach young Jews self-defense rather unorthodox.
“They tell me, ‘It’s not the Jewish way,’” he reports. The martial arts master obviously disagrees. “We’re not a militant people, but we have the right to defend ourselves. How can the rabbis say that it’s not the Jewish way when we just need to look at the Bible to see how David fought the Philistines?”
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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.