Senators seek additional funds to synagogues for security

Two senators introduce bipartisan legislation to give funds to synagogues to help provide additional security against potential attacks.

Ben Ariel ,

US Capitol
US Capitol

Two senators have introduced bipartisan legislation to give funds to synagogues, and other religious and cultural institution to help provide additional security against potential terrorist attacks, JTA reported Sunday.

US Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), and Gary Peters (D-MI), on Friday introduced Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act, or S. 1539, to authorize $75 million annually for fiscal years 2020-2024 for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program.

Of the $75 million total, $50 million would be available for nonprofits located within high-risk urban areas, and the remaining $25 million will be available for organizations that fall outside of those areas. Under the legislation, funding may be used for making the institution’s building more secure, training for personnel, and any other appropriate activity to increase security.

A letter initiated by Portman was sent earlier this month to the top Republican and Democratic senators on the Appropriations Committee seeking a raise to $75 million from $60 million in security funding for religious institutions.

“Ensuring that synagogues, religious and cultural institutions, and nonprofit organizations have the resources and training they need to secure their facilities is one way Congress can help address this unnecessary violence that has tragically become more and more common,” Portman said in a statement quoted by JTA.

“As I’ve said many times, there is no place for hatred or bigotry of any kind toward our fellow citizens. The threats and attacks we’ve seen across our country are attacks on our values and this bipartisan bill will help protect faith- and cultural-based institutions in Ohio and across our country.”

The proposed legislation comes after this month’s attack on the Chabad of Poway synagogue near San Diego, in which a gunman murdered 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye and wounded three others, including the rabbi of the congregation.

John Earnest, the accused gunman, was later charged by local prosecutors with murder in the first degree and three counts of attempted murder.

Federal prosecutors subsequently charged Earnest with 109 counts of hate crimes and civil rights offenses. The 19-year-old pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Last October, a gunman shot and killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

The gunman, Robert Bowers, used an AR-15 assault-style rifle in the attack on a Shabbat morning and allegedly yelled “I want to kill all Jews” during the attack.