How To Get Started in Your Community
It’s best to spark an interest before you start contacting karate studios or shooting ranges. A few things to consider include:
- Ask congregants, friends and family if they have a growing concern for the safety of the community
- Is there a plan in place in day schools, synagogues and neighborhood were there to be a situation that could lead to loss of lives
- Does anyone in your synagogue possess self defense skills, i.e. karate, krav maga, defensive handgun training
- Is there a large overall dislike for guns in your community
These are some basic overall thoughts to consider. After you’ve established a need and desire, you could arrange enough participants for a gun safety or krav maga class. That’s when you start the research for a location near your community to arrange a class.
The best thing you can do is to look at the schedule of the shooting range or self defense studio, and take the class yourself to get a feel for the class. This will be the best way to sell others on the idea. You can give a first hand account of the training, and know yourself what is entailed in the class. You’ll also be able to determine if this instructor would be a good fit for your community. If not, you can inquire with the manager as to other available instructors and request to sit in on their class for a half hour, or so. They are more inclined to grant this sit in if you’ve already taken the same class, and inform them of your intentions of bringing a group in for a class. I have had great success with gun safety courses. These classes can be greatly empowering, as they give you a classroom setting that entails 2-3 hours of theory, then onto the shooting range for one on one instruction in a controlled environment. By the time it comes to range time, everyone is more comfortable with, and excited, to execute their new found knowledge. The three hours of theory drill the laws of gun safety into each participant. By the time my participants were done, each asked for follow up classes and range hours!
Following is a basic list of steps to get the process rolling:
- Set a date, then check your community’s calendar to make sure another event isn’t going on that could prevent a good turnout. Make sure there’s not a Jewish holiday or a bank holiday where there would be too many people at the range to obtain a private range area.
- Contact instructor or range manager to confirm that a class can be scheduled.
- Request a group rate, and ask if there is a minimum or maximum number of participants needed.
- Request an option of a Sunday morning class, or weeknight class. If planned in advance, most ranges will accommodate and have time to remove an existing class that they may offer regularly on those days.
- Saturdays are very busy at the ranges, I’m told. As an observant Jew, I appreciate a Sunday or weeknight class. If you are planning for observant participants, you will do well with making separate gender classes. If you have all men, they may need to have a different mincha time established for weeknight classes, as the classes start at 5, usually.
- Once you have secured a date with the range, send a letter out through your synagogue, school, community happenings page and any social network you use like Facebook. I’ve attached my letters on the website, so perhaps they will assist you in starting your letter. I also drop flyers by the kosher stores I frequent, and any other businesses that give me permission to leave them. I also speak with rabbis and congregants to let them know what I’m doing and encourage them to sign up.
- Classes here in Phoenix are 59.00 each. The range gives me a flat fee that equals 37.50 per person for a 12 person class. I charge an even 40.00 per student to cover my printing supplies, and it’s still a great bargain for the participants. I have even sponsored some community leaders to get things going. It makes a big difference, if you are able to do it.
- Women’s Beginner’s Handgun Safety was my starting class. The women were more inclined to overcome their fear, at least in my community. I had to create a second class date due to the overwhelming response! Women in your community may be a good starting point, but you’ll have to feel out the community and get feedback before you schedule anything.
- The day of class, it’s good to be there to check everyone in and get them situated in the classroom. Be sure to send out an email a week or so before the class telling the location, what to bring, and offer to answer any preliminary questions. I usually stay in the classroom for a half hour or so to see how responsive the group is to the instructor.
- Follow up with the participants to see how their experience was, and have them recommend the class to others if they appreciated it. After my two initial women’s classes, I had men and other women asking when the next class dates would be set.
- I received permission from my groups to take a picture and send to our local Jewish newspaper. They did a great article, and it promoted future classes. I also asked for it to be put on the community calendar in these papers, which is usually free of charge.
- Start planning for another class! Make notes of things that did and didn’t work, so you’ll be ahead for the next class. The planning gets easier with each class.