Synagogue (illustrative)
Synagogue (illustrative)iStock

Seven major Jewish organizations that lobbied for federal security grants for synagogues and other institutions have decried $30.5 million in cuts to the program.

The cut from last year’s $305 million budgeted for the nonprofit security grant program, run through the Department of Homeland Security, comes as reports of antisemitic attacks and threats have risen during the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

“These funds are not just grants; they are lifelines that have fortified vital institutions against hate and violence,” said the statement released Tuesday by the Jewish Federations of North America, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, Secure Community Network, Orthodox Union and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “The security measures these funds have supported at Jewish facilities across the country have saved lives and prevented tragedy.”

The cuts, which were part of reductions across the board for the Department of Homeland Security, came as part of a massive last-minute $1.2 trillion package negotiated by the Biden White House, the Democratic-led Senate and the Republican-led US House of Representatives.

The available $305 million covered grants for only 42% of applications, according to a statement last September by Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who backs the program.

The groups did not address that shortfall last year in their statement but said that the threat has grown since Hamas launched a war on Israel on Oct. 7, triggering attacks and threats on Jews and Muslims in the United States. Since its inception in 2005, Jewish groups have been predominant among users of the program, but Muslims more recently have sought its funds as their institutions come under threat.

“The NSGP’s importance has grown in the wake of the horrific events of the October 7th Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel, emphasizing the need for robust security measures in vulnerable communities as incidents against the Jewish community rise across the U.S.,” it said.

Funding for the program, just $15 million when it was launched in 2005, has ballooned in recent years. Top lawmakers, among them Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Jewish Democrat and Senate majority leader, have said they want to bring it up to as high as $1 billion.