August 11, 1999
How Scared Should We Be?
The Jewish community and the rest of Los Angeles respond swiftly to the shooting of five at the North Valley JCC
Gunman Buford O. Furrow has strong ties to The Order, a militant offshoot of Aryan Nations, sources say. Furrow told Las Vegas police that his shootings should serve "as a wake-up call to America to kill Jews."
Furrow was reportedly married to Debra Matthews, the widow of The Order's late founder, Robert Jay Matthews, in a 1996 ceremony at the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The couple, however, did not take out a marriage license: "Apparently, Furrow did not believe in that," says Tamar Galatzan, ADL's Western states associate counsel. Reports indicate that Furrow has worked as a security guard at the swastika-decorated Aryan Nations compound for the past several years.
His shooting spree is vintage Order conduct, sources say. "It's typical of the kinds of things The Order did and believed in," says Aaron Breitbart, senior researcher at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. According to Center officials, Buford entered the Center's Museum of Tolerance last year and, after behaving suspiciously, was escorted out of the premises by museum guards.
In the early 1980s, The Order, named after a fictional right-wing terrorist group in the racist, fictional work, "The Turner Diaries," committed a rash of armored car holdups and bank robberies, stealing more than $4 million to purchase arms to overthrow the "Zionist Occupied Government." Members bombed a synagogue in Boise, Idaho; stalked and assaulted gay men; and, in June, 1984, assassinated Denver radio-talk show host, Alan Berg, emulating their "Turner Diaries" heroes who murder a Jewish talk-radio host. Soon thereafter, following a 30-hour standoff with law enforcement on Whidbey Island, off the Washington coast, Order leader Robert Matthews died in a fiery shoot-out with the FBI.
But Furrow's shooting spree doesn't mean The Order is back, sources say. "Most everyone who was involved with The Order, which had some 20 identified members, is either dead or in prison," Galatzan explains. "I think that what happened in the North Valley was just another example or a lone individual who has perpetrated an act of terrorism."
So how worried should American Jews and, particularly, Jewish schools be? "It's a tough question," Galatzan says. "With the vigilantism now against schools in general, all facilities, unfortunately, need to take a lot more precautions (see sidebar). People shouldn't be afraid to send their children to Jewish schools, but we all need to be a little more aware of our surroundings and of security."