American Jews and guns

The first Jewish mayor of Tucson, Ariz., Charles Strauss, and Charles Jr. photographed by Camillus S. Fly, 1884. Courtesy Jewish History Museum, Tucson

Charles Strauss, the first Jewish mayor of Tucson, Arizona Territory, and his son, Charles Jr., were gun enthusiasts of a different sort.

According to Dr. Eileen R. Warshaw, executive director of Tucson’s Jewish History Museum, Mayor Strauss would never have dressed as shown in the photo above.

“He was a wealthy, respected man and always dressed in a cutaway coat and top hat as befitted a man of such respectability,” Warshaw explained.

So why the staged photo? Strauss, an accountant and merchant, was an investor in the Winchester Company.

“The gun he is holding in the photo is ‘the gun that changed the West,’ the first Winchester repeater rifle,” Warshaw said. The gun Charles Jr. holds is a pre-Civil War musket, just a prop.


An ambivalent relationship

When we think of Israelis and guns, we American Jews generally visualize brave defenders of the Jewish state. When we think of ourselves and guns, there can be a sort of dissonance.

True, we haven’t had a draft in a generation, but our ambivalence toward guns seems to go deeper. Is this because most U.S. Jews are politically liberal? Because most of us live in urban areas?

My theory is that Israel, with existential threats to its survival, holds to a post-Holocaust ethos out of need and experience. Israel’s first great wave of immigrants at its founding entered out of the ashes of Europe.

American Jews, I suspect, trend toward a pre-Holocaust ethos, a reflection of our great wave of Jewish immigration, from 1881 to 1924.

In any case, here we explore American Jewish views on gun control, armed self defense, and Judaism’s stance on hunting. Thanks go to Tuscon’s Jewish History Museum for permission to use the image above and on our January cover. It turns out that the museum’s president, Dr. Barry Friedman, was born and raised in Dayton.

– Marshall Weiss, Editor & Publisher, The Dayton Jewish Observer

The right of self-defense

American Jewish views on gun control

And he hunts too

Hunting in Jewish law and tradition

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