“I am here to help any Jew who is ready to embrace armed self-defense.”
That is the mission of Alex Dovgalevsky, who was born in the Soviet Union with far less freedom than he enjoys today.
And that is the reason Dovgalevsky has contributed so much of his time, energy, and resources as Director of Guns ‘N’ Moses, a thriving San Diego Jewish shooting club.
Guns ‘N’ Moses is for all Jews who wish to learn, practice, and improve their skills in armed self-defense. The club is open to Jews of all levels of experience, from beginners who have never held a gun, to advanced members who train in real-life scenarios, including engaging an active shooter.
The members who are regularly invited to Guns ‘N’ Moses training sessions are a loyal bunch. Of the 400 or so members, Dovgalevsky says only one has ever been removed from the membership list. And that was because he died.
Guns ‘N’ Moses has no membership dues. The costs for each training session are the actual expenses incurred by each member — range costs, ammunition, rentals, and instructors as needed. The instructors get paid, but not Dovgalevsky, who does all the organizing, curriculum preparation, and teaching of safety and fundamentals.
The reason Dovgalevsky takes no money for his work for Guns ‘N’ Moses is that he considers it a mitzvah, a commandment. Jews are commanded by the Torah (Leviticus 19:16) to save lives when they can, “You shall not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed.”
Dovgalevsky takes this obligation seriously. Besides helping to train hundreds of Jews in armed self-defense, Dovgalevsky has donated many hundreds of hours of service protecting the Jewish community. He is a common sight at the houses of worship he attends and at gatherings, standing vigilant guard to protect his Jewish community.
Dovgalevsky was not always so fortunate to have the opportunity to serve his community. He grew up in Kiev in the Soviet Ukraine. Even as a boy he developed a strong distaste for the lack of freedom behind the Iron Curtain. This early exposure to autocratic rule and a dysfunctional society profoundly influenced the course of his life.
Just before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Dovgalevsky, his sister, parents, and grandparents, managed to emigrate from Kiev to San Diego, where they later became naturalized citizens.
When he first came here, 10-year-old Dovgalevsky lived in a rough neighborhood off El Cajon Boulevard. He saw crime just about every day.
As a “skinny little kid,” Dovgalevsky fashioned his own weapons for self-defense. In Dovgalevsky’s hands, a padlock tied to a heavy drawstring from a hoodie became a mace-like spinning weapon. His classmates in seventh and eighth grades at the San Diego Jewish Academy could’N’t grasp why he would need such a device. Dovgalevsky was equally puzzled by their lack of comprehension.
Dovgalevsky was not long in this country before coming to realize that when he grew up he could have a gun for self-defense. It made so much more sense to him than the strict prohibitions in the Soviet Union.
As a young high school student, Dovgalevsky first became interested in the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Today, Second Amendment issues and gun rules and regulations remain an integral component of training in Guns ‘N’ Moses.
An important turning point in Dovgalevsky’s life came with the presidential election of 2008 and its aftermath. Dovgalevsky found himself “freaking out” over the presidential debates. To him it seemed that this country, with its breakdown of civil discourse and its intolerance of opposing viewpoints, was devolving and coming to resemble more and more some of the worst aspects of the Soviet Union.
Dovgalevsky says that Soviet Jews like himself remain relatively detached from politics until “we notice that what we see here starts seeming similar to what we ran away from.” He and his fellow Jews from the Soviet Union feel strongly that on the economic and social fronts, the Soviet Union just didn’t work.
This is what was happening to Dovgalevsky in 2009. Debating with friends used to be a pleasant pastime for Dovgalevsky. In 2009 it became not fun. It became not okay. The civil and friendly debates he enjoyed so much became ideological arguments replete with name-calling and labeling, which in Dovgalevsky’s view was a first step to dehumanization and worse.
With these alarm bells sounding, Dovgalevsky began to take up armed self-defense seriously. He knew he wanted to train on firearms with someone Jewish. To this day, Dovgalevsky does not understand why it was so important for him to train with someone Jewish. But he does know that it is just as important to many other Jews as well. That helps explain the popularity of Guns ‘N’ Moses.
So in 2009, Dovgalevsky commuted from San Diego hours each way to train with a Jewish shooting group in Los Angeles. At the same time, he studied Krav Maga, an Israeli self-defense system developed for the Israel Defense Forces and known for its focus on real-world situations and its extreme efficiency.
Beginning in 2009, he also worked for Second Amendment organizations like the National Rifle Association and Jews Can Shoot. Jews Can Shoot is a “civil rights group that honors the memory of the Holocaust to preserve, protect and defend the Second Amendment.” Their motto is the verse from the Talmud (Sanhedrin 72a), “If someone is coming to kill you, rise against him and kill him first.” And their registered trademark is Nothing Says Never Again Like an Armed Jew®.
With a solid background in firearm training, safety, and relevant California laws, and good relationships with the San Diego shooting community, when Dovgalevsky was asked to take over Guns ‘N’ Moses in 2018, it was a natural fit.
Others seem to think so too. Under Dovgalevsky’s leadership, the club has grown to hundreds of members, including young and old, men and women, Orthodox and Reform Jews, staunch defenders of their community and those who just want to feel secure in their homes.
A common theme among members seems to be the sense of empowerment that comes with growing confidence in their ability to defend themselves and their families. “I’m grateful to Dovgalevsky and to Guns ‘N’ Moses for training me to take charge of my home defense, particularly these days when law enforcement is stretched thin,” says long-time Guns ‘N’ Moses member, Helene Kagan.
Shortly after Dovgalevsky took over in 2018, the anti-semitic terrorist attack against the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh killed eleven and wounded six, resulting in a doubling of attendance in Guns ‘N’ Moses. Exactly six months later, on the last day of Passover, 2019, the fatal shooting attack at the Chabad of Poway synagogue resulted in another surge in membership. But the biggest growth in membership, Dovgalevsky reported, occurred after the Covid lockdowns and the street violence that followed.
Dovgalevsky urges San Diego’s Jews not to wait for the next deadly attack before taking personal responsibility for their own defense. “Never delay self-defense training, because when you need it, it is too late to start training.”
To handle the tremendous growth in Guns ‘N’ Moses, Dovgalevsky has partnered with San Diego County Gun Owners (SDCGO), a Political Action Committee. In striving to advance the cause of the Second Amendment, SDCGO members, most of whom are not Jewish, give generously of their time to ensure that every Guns ‘N’ Moses beginner has an experienced mentor for guidance and instruction.
“I’ve met lifelong friends in these dedicated men and women mentors,” says Guns ‘N’ Moses member and Chabad of Poway founding congregant, Patricia Kadosch. “And I’ve acquired a new skill that empowers me as a woman to potentially defend my family and community.”
The good feelings of Guns ‘N’ Moses members toward their SDCGO mentors are reciprocal. “Guns ‘N’ Moses fits in perfectly with our goals of reaching out to a wide variety of people who want and need to defend their lives,” says SDCGO founder, Michael Schwartz.
Schwartz is pleased by his collegial partnership and personal friendship with Dovgalevsky as well. “Dovgalevsky’s passion makes him, by far, the best man for the job of leadership in a group like Guns ‘N’ Moses,” Schwartz says. “Many say ‘Never Agai’N’, but Dovgalevsky lives it.”
Dovgalevsky is grateful for the freedoms he has in this country, and feels blessed to have the capabilities and potential opportunities to perform deeds of the greatest value in Judaism. Dovgalevsky is driven to serve by the verse in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a) that says, “Whoever preserves a single life from Israel is considered by Scripture as if he had preserved an entire world.”
No one will ever know how many lives have been saved and will be saved by Dovgalevsky Dovgalevsky and by those he helped train. No one can measure the deterrent effects of strong armed presences at synagogues and Jewish gatherings. Very few are aware how previously soft targets throughout all of San Diego County have been made much harder by the presence of armed Jews who have been trained in self-defense by Guns ‘N’ Moses.
Thanks to Dovgalevsky and those trained by Guns ‘N’ Moses, our synagogues throughout San Diego County are becoming harder targets and our Jewish communities are becoming safer and safer every year.
Those interested in more information or to learn more about training with Guns ‘N’ Moses should email GunsNMosesSD@gmail.com.
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