In the wake of Colleyville, Jewish groups renew efforts to double funding for federal security grants

Following the January 15 hostage crisis at a Texas synagogue, Jewish organizations in the United States have renewed their push for Congress to double funding for the nonprofit Security Grants Program (NSGP), ensuring that more targeted nonprofit institutions such as synagogues get federal funding. invest in protection.

While none of the hostages, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of the Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, were injured in the ordeal, organizations including the Jewish Federations of North America and the The Orthodox Union point to growing threats against Jewish institutions to justify increasing the NSGP from $180 million a year to $360 million.

“If the events in Colleyville don’t reinforce the critical importance of nonprofit safety grants in securing our communities, I don’t know what will,” the JFNA President and CEO said Sunday. Eric Fingerhut, in a press release.

Elana Broitman, senior vice president of the JFNA, said the request was not new, as the Jewish community had been asking for $360 million in funding for several years. While still not funded at ideal levels, support has grown, doubling in the past year to $180 million.

That number was still only enough to cover 45% of funding requests made by nonprofits last year, of which about $220 million in requests were not granted due to a lack of funding. cash, Broitman said.

An additional $100 million for the NSGP has been written into the stalled Build Back Better bill.

But as Congress scrambles to pass an omnibus spending package before the last continuing resolution (CR) funding the government expires in February, organizations see it as a perfect opportunity to increase the NSGP grants budget. .

After the hostage situation in Texas, the urgency has grown, she said, not just in the Jewish world, but for other targeted communal facilities that can also access the grants.

“I mean, the anti-Semitic trend is horrible, and there are law enforcement reports that really show that this is the worst religiously motivated hate activity. That said, we are the canary in the mine of coal,” Broitman said. “This fund goes beyond Jewish communities, and I think everyone recognizes how important it is.”

NSGP grants go to security measures in nonprofit organizations, including religious centers, museums, and places of worship. These measures include the installation of security cameras, secure doors, barriers and active shooter training exercises.

Cytron-Walker noted that the training given to him helped him to act against the hostage taker.

Additional security measures through this and other programs also helped prevent further loss of life at the Tree of Life Synagogue*Or L’Simcha’s shooting and other attacks on synagogues.

“When something happens in one place, regardless of the details of the attack in question, the security risk in other places of course increases, because we are always worried about copycat attacks. and every incident is a little different,” Broitman said. “And so the more institutions we can protect, the higher the bar for violating those institutions.”

“We are rallying the community because we just need to protect our vulnerable institutions,” she said.

“Certainly more in line with the level of demand”

According to Nathan Diament, executive director of the OU Advocacy Center, the $360 million figure was offers by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) himself a few years ago.

Diament said the omnibus spending package would be the obvious place to include the amount, as congressional leaders and appropriations committee heads began meeting to negotiate the omnibus to cover the rest of the fiscal year.

The $360 million, he said, will “certainly be closer to the level of demand.”

Diament had just wrapped up a Zoom meeting hosted by the Orthodox Union on Tuesday with more than 1,000 representatives of synagogues across the country, in addition to department officials such as U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, U.S. Department of Security Secretary Interior Alejandro Majorkas, FBI Director Christopher Wray and FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate.

Along with messages of solidarity from administration officials, synagogue officials were promised that agencies would do all they could to enhance community safety and review practical steps synagogues could take. in the coming weeks.

Funding for the NSGP and other security resources provided by Homeland Security and the FBI were also part of the discussion, according to Diament, along with practical measures for synagogue officials.

“For example, the FBI Director told the synagogue leaders, ‘If you or your synagogue leaders do not currently have an open line of communication with your local FBI office, you should pick up the phone and start now. because it’s an important relationship to have,” he said.

Diament added that another safety measure the OU has been advocating for years is that the federal government, through the US Department of Justice and other grant programs, provide more resources to local police. , specifically to increase patrols and presence around synagogues and other places of worship.

“If we are in an environment where places of worship are targets, we need a more regular police presence – at least hopefully only in the short term – but we need a more regular police presence in places of worship,” he said. noted.

Eric Fusfield, director of legislative affairs for B’nai B’rith International, said his organization has long supported the increase.

“One of Colleyville’s results is the growing awareness that such attacks can happen anywhere, at any time, from multiple sources,” he said. “Furthermore, FBI hate crime data asserts that the Jewish community is by far the most vulnerable among religious groups.

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