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Saaks, the Chai Center rabbi, owns a shotgun.

“If a neo-Nazi ever wants to bring me down, it’s not going to be as easy as it was in 1942,” he said.

Many congregants at the the Chai Center disagree with his position — and many other leaders of Jewish organizations in the U.S. have been reluctant to go as far as Saacks has. The JFBC, for example, issued a statement calling for “common sense gun reform” shortly after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which is in the area.

“There’s also the debate of ‘should civilians within congregations be armed?’ Which we don’t necessarily advocate,” said Michael Balaban, the JFBC president and CEO. The federation does not have a formal position on armed congregants, but Balaban said he would urge synagogues to use trained professionals “rather than civilians.”


With or without guns, an institutional culture of security is no longer optional.

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