July 19, 2024
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Jewish Leaders, Colleyville Rabbi Appeal to Congress to Boost Funding to Protect Synagogues

(JNS) Jewish leaders presented their case for the increase in funding and streamlining critical to improving the Federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) this week during a hearing of the House Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Subcommittee, and Intelligence and Counterterrorism Subcommittee.

Testifying before the committee were Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. The Jan. 15 hostage situation was the impetus for the hearing.

Others included Rabbi Yosef Konikov of Chabad of South Orlando, Florida; Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA); and Michael Masters, national director and CEO of Secure Community Network, which works to protect Jewish institutions.

The main issue the witnesses called for was an increase in funding of the grant, which currently stands at $180 million a year, to $360 million.

The grant allows nonprofits such as religious institutions of any religion, day schools, museums and other institutions that may be the target of an attack to apply for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help pay for hardening the facility and other security-related activities.

According to JFNA, only 45% out of more than 3,000 grant applicants that FEMA reviewed were able to be funded in 2021.

Besides additional funding, the witnesses also called for improvements to the grantmaking process to make it easier for organizations, including smaller synagogues, to apply for and receive grants.

Masters urged Congress to allow the program to expand its appropriation language to allow FEMA to consider hate- and grievance-based crimes in its allocation.

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