Jewish woman in Arizona practicing her shooting skills. Photo courtesy of Masada Siegel.



Jewish mom chat groups on WhatsApp and other platforms cover lots of topics, including prayer requests for the sick, book clubs, opportunities to volunteer. But new topics have been added since Oct. 7 for some in the state of Arizona who, like religious women in Judea and Samaria, have been spending time at the local shooting range.


Messages about private shooting classes at gun ranges abound, as do discussions about Taekwondo self-defense courses.

Sunny Levi, 46, an Orthodox Jewish mother of six in Scottsdale, Ariz. told JNS that her services have been in demand since the terrorist attacks in southern Israel six months ago, with triple the number of people attending compared to before then. “Every woman should know how to defend herself,” she said. “It is important that you know where to hit someone to knock them out, how to stop the blood flow to the brain, to disable them and even to kill them if needed.”

“When a person has the knowledge on how to protect themselves, they have more confidence and that makes them less of a target,” she added.

Farah Tataro, 40, a petite young widow and Jewish convert who lives in Phoenix, told JNS that she went to her first gun-training class in 2023.“I was really nervous. I have never held a gun before,” she said. “But when I left, I felt empowered. I need to be ready. I have to protect my family.”

“Not Going To Hide’”

Andrea Bakall, 36, also of Phoenix, learned to shoot as a child. As an adult, she developed her shooting skills more seriously for when she hiked solo in the wilderness. She never considered carrying a weapon in town to protect herself from potential harm until a few months ago.

“After what I saw on Oct. 7, I realized the need to protect myself and my family,” she told JNS. “There needs to be a lot of good Jewish people in America, too, that are ready to react in dangerous situations. If the world does not protect us we have to protect ourselves.”

“We are not going to hide; that is for sure,” emphasized Bakall. “Historically, American Jewish women have focused on promoting peace and spreading light,” she told JNS. “It is a paradigm shift to have to protect yourself as a peaceful group.”

Paradigm Shifts

Bakall’s husband is from Sweden. “I used to be shocked that the Jewish community in Sweden was hesitant to wear Jewish stars because of the dangers it poses,” she told JNS. “I never thought as an American that this would happen here.” She plans to continue learning to shoot and purchase a handgun when she feels more confident in her abilities.

Phoenix resident Adena Rochelle, 45, who has organized several self-defense events, told JNS that the “atrocities and murderous rampage against Jewish people has caused a major shift in my personality.” Previously, she didn’t broadcast her Jewish identity but now, for the first time, is wearing a necklace with a Star of David. “I am just grateful we live in a state that honors the Second Amendment and that we are allowed to have a gun in Arizona,” she said.  She plans to purchase a firearm when she is “properly trained, and when my children know all the safety rules and have taken a class on it as well.” “I want one in my home for self-protection, and I am considering carrying it at all times,” she said.


Don Aguilar, chief of police of the City of Santa Paula, Calif., told JNS that he has seen an increase in women taking self-protection courses. “The gun as personal protection has come to the forefront for women more than I have seen before,” he said. “Prior, it was common for women to attend trainings with pepper spray and taser guns. Now there are more women receiving gun training than I have seen in my 36-year career in law enforcement.”

He did make it a point to say that gun owners “must practice the highest level of safety in securing firearms in their homes.”


Arik Wollheim, a rabbi and the cantor at the modern Orthodox congregation Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, Calif., told JNS that the Talmud records that self-defense is justified when a person senses an imminent threat and need not wait until he or she is attacked physically to protect oneself. “The principle is that, ‘The one who comes to kill you, rise early to kill him,’” Wollheim said. “Individuals have the right to defend themselves and preserve their lives, even if it requires taking the life of the one who poses a threat.”