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Reform Jews May Support Gun Control, but More Orthodox Jews are Becoming Gun Rights Supporters

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The first thing Mushka Lowenstein does after saying her morning prayers, adjusting her wig, and serving her three kids breakfast, is take her Glock-19 out of the safe. 

Then she puts on her uniform—a sweater and a skirt with hidden pants and belt loops sewn in where she places the holster for her gun. Then she grabs the portable case that carries her Glock and puts it under the stroller she uses to push her five-year-old to synagogue in Los Angeles.

It’s hot out, but she stays covered up as she treks La Brea, passing men in black hats and beards who avoid eye contact with her, and the other women in yoga bra tops walking their dogs this Saturday morning.

Lowenstein, 33, looks like any other Orthodox Jewish woman on Shabbat. And that’s just how she wants it. 

Her synagogue in Hancock Park is a little run-down, with linoleum floors and drop-tile ceilings, but it’s full of life, chanting, and swaying. The space is divided between men and women. Lowenstein prays with the female congregants while scanning for threats, her pistol now removed from her case and tucked into the holster under her sweater.

She’s backed up by her longtime friend Srula Chaiton, 32, who oversees a girls’ service down the hall. As Chaiton recites a silent prayer, I notice the outline of her own Glock under her jacket. 

“I carry every week in shul, on a holster on my belt,” said Chaiton.

Lowenstein and Chaiton are licensed, armed security—Orthodox Jewish sharpshooters. To most Jews, that’s like a WASP sex therapist or a short supermodel: a contradiction in terms. And the stereotype of gunless Jews has a strong basis in reality: according to a 2005 report from the American Jewish Committee, Jews have the lowest rate of gun ownership of all religious groups, with just 13 percent of Jewish households owning firearms (compared to 41 percent for non-Jews). A 2017 report on religion and gun ownership found just 10 percent of Jewish respondents own handguns. 

But women like Lowenstein and Chaiton say that’s rapidly changing. 

— Adam Popescu in A Skirt, a Wig, and a Glock-19

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