During a High Holiday security briefing held this afternoon on Capitol Hill, members of Congress from across the aisle and both chambers vowed to advocate for increased funding for the vital Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), whose current funding level of $305 million is meeting the needs of fewer than half of all applications.
The briefing was organized by Jewish Federations of North America together with SCN (Secure Community Network), ADL (Anti-Defamation League), and the OU (Orthodox Union), with the support of six other major Jewish organizations.
Jewish Federations of North America President & CEO Eric Fingerhut opened the briefing with a call for "full funding of the [NSGP] program at the $360 million level." While Jewish Federations spend millions of dollars a year on communal security, Fingerhut noted that in the face of unprecedented spikes in antisemitism, the public-private partnership with the government requires additional public resources. "It is truly indispensable to the physical security of churches, synagogues, mosques, and all other faith-based places of gathering across the country. There's not a security camera or security door that isn't in some way costly and needs the help and support of these resources."
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) emphasized his disagreement with the Senate’s proposed cut of the homeland security appropriations bill he oversees as subcommittee chair, including the NSGP cut. "My mission and our mission is to make sure that when we reconcile the Senate bill with the House bill, that we deliver another big meaningful increase in the Nonprofit Security Grant Program,” he said.
“Since coming to Congress, I have repeatedly advocated for increased funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program because it has become even more critical than ever for our safety,” said Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), a former Chair of Jewish Federations of North America who helped advocate for the program’s creation. “And that's why I joined 135 of my House colleagues to call for an increase to $360 million of funding in fiscal year 2024.”
"The most basic principle is 'What are we doing to be able to push back on antisemitism?' That's our first priority in this,” said Senator James Lankford (R-OK), calling for broader adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism in the government. "The last thing that we want to have is for antisemitism to be a partisan conversation.”
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) spoke about anti-Israel bias, emphasizing the importance of education in combatting hateful rhetoric. “The bias is so thick, you can cut it with a knife, and we're we are doing what we can to fight it,” he said.
Brandy Flack of Margolin Hebrew Academy shared details of the harrowing experience she underwent last month when a shooter opened fire outside her school, crediting the school's security installments that were credited with saving lives.
She said, “A man came to our school in Memphis poised on committing a mass shooting, and thankfully he failed. He failed because he was unable to enter our buildings. Only a few weeks earlier, our doors had been replaced and hardened with deliberate access control. The Federal nonprofit security grant program funded this life-saving security upgrade." She added that the protocols they had practiced helped keep them safe and that their security cameras helped law enforcement to identify, locate, and subdue the assailant before he could move on to his next targets.
“As we prepare to gather for the high holidays over the next month, the Jewish community remains the number one target of religiously motivated hate crimes in the United States,” said the Secure Community Network’s National Director & CEO, Michael Masters. “Our network of security professionals have been planning, preparing, and training in advance of this special, holiest of times. SCN has trained over 7,700 people for the High Holidays in the last several weeks alone. We have made much progress, but there is much more work to do. Every religious facility in America must be protected, every member of a faith-based community must be trained, we need to expand NSGP and similar efforts, and our efforts must be professional, specific, and ongoing.”
Executive Director for the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, Nathan Diament, said, “We have it in our hands to first take measures to ensure the security and safety of our communities. And we have it in our hands to act to combat and reduce hate and create a new year of health and happiness for all. We at the Orthodox Union are grateful to our allies in Congress and partners in the Jewish community with whom we strive to achieve this goal.”
“Pundits, politicians, and platforms have embraced the type of hate and conspiracies that were previously reserved for the fringes of society and are now being amplified in more mainstream spaces,” said ADL’s Washington, DC Regional Director Meredith Weisel. “That is why funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program is so critical. In the face of rising threats towards religious and other nonprofit institutions, funding has enabled congregations to improve their security measures and allowed millions praying in houses of worship, especially during the holiest time of year, to have the peace of mind that their institutions are equipped to deter and protect against these attacks.”
The Jewish Federations of North America stated: "Communal security is a core Jewish Federation priority. In addition to advocating for an increase to the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, Jewish Federations continue to raise funds towards LiveSecure, our $130 million security initiative that we launched in 2021. Today, 103 Jewish communities have professionally led security programs, up from just a handful in 2019."