Photo courtesy of the National Archives
Doris Wise Montrose founded Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in 2006 in memory of her father, who spent World War II in Auschwitz-Birkenau. “In exchange for tailoring Nazi uniforms, they allowed him to live and would reward him with an occasional potato or an onion,” Montrose said. He never saw his first wife, parents, or six sisters and their families again. His younger brother survived.
Space was limited when her Los Angeles-based organization held a firearm familiarization day on May 12, 2014, so the slots filled fast. Itamar Gelbman, whose stint as a bodyguard for Britney Spears was probably more painful than his former service in the Israeli Defense Force, provided instruction. Gelbman—a grandson of Holocaust survivors—put students behind the trigger of a variety of guns, including an AR-15 and Glock 9 mm.
Response was unanimous. “I was so afraid to pick up a gun and after this first class, I’m no longer shaking,” Lea Rosenfeld said. “Many of my friends are now interested, too.” Rabbi Yitzchak Sapochkinsky said, “Good introduction to remove the fear or apprehension…I was always telling myself that I wanted something like this and there it was!” Les Hajnal, P.E., put it into perspective. “I had a great time and learned a lot from Itamar. I for one am determined to hold fast to the principal of never again.”
Montrose explained, “The inspiration and motivation for including firearms training…is this quote from Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and also a child of Holocaust survivors: ‘All too many of the other great tragedies of history—Stalin’s atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holocaust, to name but a few—were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations. Many could well have been avoided or mitigated, had the perpetrators known their intended victims were equipped with a rifle and twenty bullets apiece….If a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto could hold off the Wehrmacht for almost a month with only a handful of weapons, six million Jews armed with rifles could not so easily have been herded into cattle cars.’”
The danger hasn’t disappeared, either. The Anti-Defamation League estimated in 2014 that deeply seated anti-Semitic feelings are on the increase—infecting 1.1 billion people globally. Montrose warns it’s not only Jews, but every American is in danger if radical Muslims get their way. “I am consumed by doing my part to make sure no other Jew ever has to face what we faced before. And not only Jews, because this time it will not be limited to Jews, gypsies and homosexuals.”
How does she reconcile religious beliefs with firearms? “In the Jewish tradition, self-defense is a moral obligation,” she explained. “From the Talmud: ‘If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.’ The law of pikuach nefesh, or saving lives, takes precedence over all others. To fail to protect human life, including your own, simply because doing so might require the protector to use violence…would be contrary to pikuach nefesh.”
There are no Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors memberships or dues. Montrose said its ultimate goal is, “To become obsolete as a result of having fulfilled our mission successfully.” Visit at cjhsla.org to learn more.
Montrose’s father and mother—who had most of her family survive—met in a displaced-persons camp after he learned the fate of his wife and parents. Ultimately, the pair married, moved to Canada and had two girls, and one of them has a passion for reminding lawful citizens, “There is no virtue in being unprepared.”