UPDATED: ‘Respek,’ Sheila Stokes-Begley

The column “A new Jewish pro-gun group: The Zelman Partisans,” by The Gun Writer, Lee Williams of the Herald-Tribune (Sarasota, FL), is a real coup for TZP. As Ali G., aka Sacha Baron Cohen, would have said: “Respek,” Sheila Stokes-Begley.

As someone who is hardly new to liberty (I began writing a weekly newspaper column in 1998, in Canada), but who takes her cues about Aaron’s legacy from individuals who were closely associated with him, forgive me for asking: If The Zelman Partisans is open to any and all—and I like the idea of inclusiveness in this cause—what makes us Jewish? I’m agnostic on the matter, if curious on just how we stay true to the advertized motto of “Jews. Guns. No compromise. No surrender.”

Again, kol hakavod, Sheila.

(Here is our Alexa ranking.)

UPDATE: Very well, Vladka Peltel (see comments below). My own writing and identity are inescapably informed by my Jewishness. I liked that JPFO had a rabbi on call who also reasoned powerfully—even brilliantly, and certainly biblically “against pacifism, and in defense of a ‘righteous killing.’ Rabbi Bendory also demonstrated a command of Hebrew grammar as well as impressive deductive, analytical thinking.” It would be hard to find another American rabbi in his league, and we should avoid recruiting a second-rate mind such as the two clowns mentioned in “American Rabbis For Israel First.”

In any case, you are all more Jewish than most Jews I know. This chat was most illuminating. Thanks.


10 thoughts on “UPDATED: ‘Respek,’ Sheila Stokes-Begley”

  1. Well, Ilana, I can only speak for myself and since I’m one of the non-Jews in the group this is a question I’ve grappled with from the very first time Aaron asked me to write for him and I protested, “But I’m not Jewish!”

    For me, The Zelman Partisans are (as it says on the “About Us” page) Jews and friends. In my book, “we the friends” are subsidiary.

    But we’re people who know that victim disarmament precedes genocide. We’re people who know that groups are demonized before they can be destroyed. We’re people who honor Jewish heritage even though we don’t share it. We’re people who understand something about history and therefore have great sympathy for what Jews have suffered.

    Maybe some of us are also people whose ancestors have been demonized and persecuted unto death. (Several times in history, if the English had had modern technology, they’d have wiped my Irish forebears off the map; even without modern tech, they tried to — and came pretty close in some places.)

    We’re people who would like to help remind the world that self-defense matters to minorities. We’re people who see ourselves, as gun owners and freedomistas, being demonized as “nuts” and “domestic terrorists” and worse.

    And some of us (like me) just became so close to Aaron Zelman and the crusade he embarked upon that we’d like to be around to keep it going.

    Personally, if the Jewish members of TZP asked me to leave the blog — to be a background supporter but nothing more — I’d go. Because I do see this place belonging more to you than me.

    But just as JPFO was always open to all — but still remained Jewish in its heart and soul — so can TZP.

    That’s my take, anyhow.

    1. My take is the following. What makes this organization Jewish is the perspective we have to offer. It’s not about religion. It’s not about faith. It’s not even about culture, although a number of us bring that uniqueness to the organization. It’s about the Jewish history and the rare mindset the Jewish lens offers. Jews were disarmed, marginalized, victimized, dehumanized, and murdered en masse. All because of their heritage, their religion, and their culture. Anyone who can comprehend intrinsically those ultimate violations is welcome – Jewish or not. It’s the lens and the inherent understanding, the dedication to ensuring that these abuses never happen again, and the commitment to the truth from a clearly Jewish perspective, not the religion or Jewishness by birth, that makes one a true member of this organization.

      1. Nicki, as a hardcore purist about most things, I’d say that “Jewish” means something much more specific. A Jewish perspective means something precise too. Claire uses a term which is similar to the “Righteous Gentiles” term. Perhaps we should have added that to logo, for accuracy. I don’t like the direction I’m taking here—but even though I’m a non-religious Hebrew, it strikes me as kind of lefty to use “Jewish” in such a vague way. Maybe I’m out of order.

        1. Nothing out of order about having a discussion. “Jewish” in and of itself is more specific. You’re right about that. But the Zelman Partisans is much more than a “Jewish” organization. To me, it’s an organization with a Jewish perspective – more than just Jewish membership. The logo – to me anyway – implies that perspective, rather than a purely religious or cultural connotation. The view that we are all Jews in spirit as we stand up with our Jewish brothers, sisters, and friends is what I think that tag line is about. That’s my 2 cents. 🙂

  2. Another issue worth raising: As long as the work of this blog or this group centers around issues related to Jews, Jews and self-defense, Jews and firearms, violently anti-semitic threats, Jewish politicians and their votes and views on the right to keep and bear arms (RKBA) and similar issues then in a way it doesn’t matter whether the writers, members, donors or office staff are Jewish, Protestant, atheist, or Pastafarian.

    There should be a strong Jewish presence and Jewish leadership here (if there are leaders at all), and there is, but this is more about why Jews need and should support RKBA than about who’s Jewish and who’s not.

    Who’s Jewish and what exactly Jewishness is is a question that’s gone on for hundreds of years. Right here we have two ladies, Ilana and Nicki, from undeniably Jewish backgrounds. One is the daughter of a rabbi, one from a Soviet refusnik family who was raised religious. Both say they’re not religious. But it seems that Ilana considers herself Jewish while Nicki declines that label for herself. Most people would consider them both Jewish on cultural grounds and Jewish tradition would consider them Jewish because of their mothers’ heritage. And then we have Sheila, who’s not Jewish, but probably knows and cares more about Judaism than most secular Jews do, and is conversant in Hebrew, besides. So “who or what is Jewish?” as far as TZP goes is a question nobody’s going to be able to answer and it doesn’t need to be answered as long as we know where the focus of our words and actions should be.

  3. To me, the answer is easy. IF we are carrying on Aaron’s legacy, then we do it as Aaron did it. No guess work involved. We know how Aaron wanted it done.
    I’m more of a conundrum. I’m a member of the Israel Spirit Committee, accepted at the JCC by the Jews and Israelis on the Committee as this kind of orphan pup type person, but they give me a lot of grace, accept me as one of them, and I love them. I learn more all the time. I know this is where G-d wants me, and put me. As a dear friend said, I should listen, lest I come home to find a hord of locusts in my pasture. Good enough for me. I’m home, in whatever capacity I can serve.

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