In the latter part of the 1930s, Bratislava was home to a large, affluent Jewish community.  Overcoming many challenges as an ethnic minority, the Jewish community in Slovakia thrived. In 1938, a new wave of antisemitism gripped Bratislava. Jewish businesses were boycotted, burned, and looted, synagogues and yeshivas were burned, students were expelled from universities, and Jews were barred from certain forms of employment. Most heinously, Jewish men, women, and children were often murdered.

When fascists came to Bratislava, Master Imi understood that his community would need something radically different. Under these circumstances, Master Imi Lichtenfeld created and taught the Jewish community Krav Maga, which has become one of the most efficient self-defense systems worldwide. Violence throughout subsequent centuries has forced Krav Maga instructors to adapt the techniques to address what Jewish communities face. An analysis of some of the more extreme incidents over the past year alone is startling:

I interviewed Expert Raz Chen, CEO of AVIIR and Senior instructor for Guardian Self Defense in New York. GSD is a nonprofit funded by donors that provide subsidized training for the Jewish community. Raz has also volunteered for Dragon Combat Club, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching the Asian American community to defend themselves. Raz spoke to me about how Krav Maga prepares civilians to handle life-threatening situations.

“We place particular emphasis on avoidance and de-escalation. Krav Maga is based on natural reflexes, so everyone is able to learn and apply the techniques. We teach the ABCs: Avoidance through awareness, boundaries with body and voice, and combat as an absolute last resort. The more you train, the less likely you will find yourself in a situation where you have to fight. Recognizing predators and red flags is an essential skill that is extremely undervalued. Acknowledging your gut instinct and extracting yourself from the situation ahead of time is ideal. Ideally, we want to defuse the situation with words and establish clear boundaries. We teach combat as a means of protection only.”

Tsahi Shemesh is the owner of Krav Maga Experts. He says that Krav Maga, here and in Israel, brings people together regardless of their background or faith.

“We have trained people from Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, even Gaza. Some of my students have told me that friends stopped speaking with them because they train with Israelis. A student from Gaza told me her family rejected her because she was training with Jews. But she had no problem with us. Eventually, she had to return to Gaza. I don’t know where, but I hope she is ok. We are here for anyone who wants to empower themselves.”

Like many Israeli business owners in America, Tsahi is no stranger to antisemitism. Candidates refused interviews with him because he was Israeli. Students have withdrawn membership because his business is “connected to Israel.” He wonders how many people won’t come to learn because he is Israeli. As I listened, I couldn’t help but wonder how one justifies targeting someone’s business because of their identity. Is this not the opposite of progressive ideology?

The attacks have been effective: reports show that one out of five Jews on campuses hide their identity. Who can blame them? In August 2021, a Jewish student at Yeshiva in Denver, Colorado, was murdered. Last month,  Matthew Greenman was brutally beaten by Sadaah Masoud at a rally hosted by Within Our Lifetime, a CUNY group notorious for encouraging violence against Jews.

While their fear is understandable, we know that fear is the objective of those who call for violence against our community. I do not believe we serve our community by hiding. Everyone should be free to celebrate who they are in peace. Unfortunately, the normalization of violence against Jews has created a new reality we must address.

When the fascist paramilitary groups in Bratislava came in the hundreds and tried to break into the Jewish quarter, Master Imi and sixteen Jewish athletes fought – successfully-  to keep them out. Amateur weightlifters and boxers protected their communities against a mob who had been brainwashed by the same rhetoric so prevalent in our society today. Imi understood that the violence would keep coming and training was a necessity. Our objective today should still be to avoid violence and promote peace and understanding, but history (including recent history) has shown us that it is better to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

Raise your voice! Visit to review our submission guidelines. Have your article featured on the CAMERA on Campus blog.

arrow-rightArtboard 2arrowArtboard 1awardArtboard 3bookletArtboard 2brushArtboard 2buildingArtboard 2business-personArtboard 2calendarArtboard 2caret-downcheckArtboard 10checkArtboard 10clockArtboard 2closeArtboard 2crownArtboard 2documentArtboard 2down-arrowArtboard 2facebookArtboard 1gearArtboard 2heartArtboard 2homeArtboard 2instagramArtboard 1keyArtboard 2locationArtboard 2paperclipArtboard 1pencilArtboard 2personArtboard 1pictureArtboard 2pie-chartArtboard 2planeArtboard 2presentationArtboard 2searchArtboard 2speech-bubbleArtboard 1starArtboard 2street-signArtboard 2toolsArtboard 2trophyArtboard 1twitterArtboard 1youtubeArtboard 1