Vigilantes and volunteers

By SHARON BASCO  |  August 14, 2008

"I'm not taking any credit away from them. But I'm just saying that even with well-meaning people it takes just a few foul balls, and you're out."
The Jewish Patrol
O'Neill spoke of another patrol group, this a voluntary vigilante, the forces of the Jewish Defense League and the Jewish Survival Legion. "It was a rat race when those synagogue bombings and house bombings were going on in Mattapan against the Jewish people. You had to feel bad for those people. One old man came in here so badly beaten up. He didn't complain, just pulled up his sleeve and showed me a tattoo — a concentration camp number. It was a rat race out there. So help me, listening to stories of what was happening ... my ears would ring."

"Every Jew, a .22," is a JDL slogan that the Boston Jewish Patrol forces have taken to heart. Their forces are the best trained, and most well-equipped in the city. Membership in the patrol is allowed only if the applicant passes the tough psychiatric exam recognized to be tougher than the Boston police exam. Self-defense training, including judo and karate, and weekly rifle training come next. Then the JDL or Survival Legion patrolman is ready to join a unit: one person is in charge of ammunition, one for equipment (i.e., the customary rifle in the trunk, plastic police riot sticks, mace, and other firearms) one for communications, and one is in charge of intelligence. The unit travels together in one car as part of a patrol operation of three or four unmarked cars. They've been patrolling once a week in Mattapan, as well as Brookline, and other predominately Jewish areas since 1968. These patrols are on call 24 hours a day, every day.

One of the JDL patrol leaders describes the difference between their long-successful patrol, and other voluntary defense patrols: "The reason we survive as a patrol is that our members accept this duty as routine, boring, but very necessary. When nothing happens, then we are effective, then we are successful. Discipline is a key word. You have to realize that there will be no visible results, and probably no long-term results of a successful patrol. The commitment is to maintain a commitment to devote large amounts of time to a really boring activity."

The JDL leader pulled out a pile of blue-black berets from a box. "Our only uniform," he said. He swung the three foot long, seven pound police club.

"With proper training, it can be effective as a pistol."

"Almost everything we do is within the law," some of the JDL patrolmen explained. "But we're prepared for anything that's necessary. We are prepared to use physical violence to counter people, but we don't use a show of force. We arise from the philosophy, 'never again.' If someone has burned down a synagogue, then by whatever means it takes, we make sure he won't burn down any more synagogues," one JDL patrolman said.

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