WASHINGTON – Following the horrific attack at Congregation Beth Israel, Jewish organizations have urged Congress to double the funds for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP).
The project’s current budget is $180 million annually, and Jewish organizations are asking to increase it to $360m.
The program allows houses of worship and other nonprofits at risk to apply for grants of up to $100,000 each. The money can be used for security measures such as fences, cameras, stronger doors and the hiring of personnel.
In recent years, the program’s budget was increased several times due to the rise in antisemitism across the US. In 2019, Congress approved an increase in the security grants by 50% from $60m. to $90m. After the antisemitic attack in Monsey, New York, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said he would promote a move to quadruple the NSPG from $90m. to $360m. a year.
So far, Congress has doubled the budget of the NSGP from $90m. to $180m. Several Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Federations of North America and the Secure Community Network (SCN), said this funding level was insufficient in light of the high level of threat against Jewish institutions. For some organizations, increasing the funding is a top priority for the 2022 legislative agenda.
“In the last 24 hours, we saw an individual reportedly armed who alleged to have explosives breached the sanctity of one of our houses of worship,” said Michael Masters, CEO and national director of the SCN.
“We should act now to protect our sacred spaces,” he said. “We are thankful to Congress for their support in protecting our community, and we look forward to working with them to increase the investment as we work to increase the security of our institutions.”
“The program is a vital resource for faith-based institutions, and the Jewish community, specifically,” Masters said. “In the last several years, the Jewish community has endured historic rates of vandalism, property damage and targeted violence that show no signs of diminishing. The SCN supports an increasing number of applicants every year, and these life-saving grant funds requested continually outpace the amount allocated by Congress. To continue to protect our community, we know more must be done.”
Nathan Diament, executive director for the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, said: “This Shabbat’s crisis in Colleyville, Texas, shows, sadly, that Pittsburgh and Poway were not ‘one-off’ events.”
“The need for greater security resources for shuls across the United States is immediate and real,” he said. “This is not only for the sake of the physical safety of the community but for the essential purpose of not letting the antisemites prevail and stop us from exercising our freedom to worship with peace of mind.”
“The Orthodox Union is engaged with the highest levels of the Biden administration and congressional leaders to deliver these resources – including the boost to NSGP we have called for,” Diament said.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said: “With threats against synagogues and other Jewish institutions arguably at an all-time high, it is imperative that the federal government provides appropriate levels of funding to mitigate the threat.”
“As we saw in Texas, it is urgently critical for Congress to increase funding to protect these nonprofit organizations from future acts of terrorism or hate-motivated violence,” he said in a statement.
The ADL has long supported an increase in funding for the NSGP to protect soft targets from potential acts of terrorism, Greenblatt said.
“AJC has long supported a robust Nonprofit Security Grant Program – and favored the $360 million annual allotment the House had initially favored, a figure that was reduced in the 2021 budget compromise with the Senate,” said Jason Isaacson, chief policy and political affairs officer at the American Jewish Committee.
“A range of religiously based institutions have been scenes of violence and destruction,” he said. “The need is great – and, regrettably, it’s growing. Additional federal assistance would convert to additional security at synagogues, other houses of worship, and other vulnerable institutions.”
Eric Fingerhut, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, said: “If the events in Colleyville do not reinforce how crucial nonprofit security grants are in securing our communities, I don’t know what will.”
“This is just the latest, stark example of why Federations are working to expand communal security services to every Jewish community across the nation through our LiveSecure initiative,” he said.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai said: “This latest attack on a synagogue once again underlines the importance of improving security measures for Jewish communal institutions against the threat of violence motivated by antisemitism and hate.”
“The Diaspora Affairs Ministry provides support for the implementation of such measures in Jewish communities around the world, as well as other forms of assistance to improve the physical security of Jewish institutions. It has become apparent that much more needs to be done to keep Jews safe in 2022,” he said. “My ministry and I will be working this coming year to deepen our commitment in this arena and work in partnership with Jewish communities around the world to better understand their needs and how we can help.”