Department of Homeland Security

Jewish advocates call for emergency security funding amid increased anti-Semitic attacks

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Jewish advocacy groups are calling for an emergency boost in security funding ahead of the next appropriations cycle after five people were stabbed at a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, N.Y., last weekend.

The organizations are requesting the federal government take action to increase federal and state security grants and prosecute anti-Semitic incidents more rigorously after the attack on the seventh night of Hanukkah.

Eric Fingerhut, the CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, said the Monsey attack and other recent anti-Semitic incidents “without question” intensified the urgency of the group’s advocacy work to push the government to protect all places of worship.

The federal government has directed more attention to increasing security in recent years, with Congress boosting the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) security grant for nonprofits, including Jewish institutions, from $60 million to $90 million for fiscal year 2020.

While Fingerhut said he is grateful for the increase and efforts, the recent string of anti-Semitic incidents, including the stabbing, has made him realize that “even that … is not sufficient.” The CEO said the federal government should supply more funding for security measures outside the regular appropriations cycle. 

“I think this is not something that needs to go through the regular appropriations cycle,” he said. “I do think we’re facing an emergency.”

The organization is calling for its hundreds of community federations and network communities across the country to petition their members of Congress to back security efforts, specifically Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) proposal to quadruple funding. 

Schumer announced his proposal to swell funding of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to $360 million on Monday after the Hanukkah stabbing. Jewish advocacy organizations applauded the minority leader’s proposal and have pledged to take action to ensure these funds are appropriated. 

Allen Fagin, the executive vice president of the Orthodox Union that represents Orthodox communities, agreed with Fingerhut that the group hopes security funding “will not take another appropriations cycle.”

“From our perspective, the urgency has been there,” he said. “I think when you see a spate of attacks within a very short period of time, literally day after day after day, what it does is to change the perception certainly among elected officials of not only the severity of the problem, but the absolute need to deal with it in the most forceful way possible.”

The appropriations cycle for fiscal year 2020 finished last month, but Congress won’t finalize the next cycle until at least October 2020. 

Fagin said the Orthodox Union is also striving to promote the nonprofit security funding on a state level, expand the eligibility of the grant to smaller institutions and ensure perpetrators are charged and penalized with the appropriate “severity.” 

Grafton Thomas, the suspect in the Monsey attack, has been charged with a federal hate crime and attempted murder.

Last weekend’s stabbing ended a year of increased anti-Semitic attacks for the Jewish community, including when three people were killed in a shooting at a kosher market in Jersey City, N.J., weeks before. A shooting in Poway, Calif., on the last day of Passover also killed one woman and injured three people. 

Federal data showed almost 60 percent of religiously motivated hate crimes in 2018 were targeted at Jews. 

A string of anti-Semitic incidents have additionally been reported within the last month, with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) documenting at least one occurring every day across the country between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1. Specifically, the New York and New Jersey area experienced more than a dozen incidents in the month.

Senior Vice President of Programs at ADL George Selim said the organization’s immediate priority is to escalate public security at Jewish houses of worship and institutions, especially during holidays, by collaborating with local FBI special agents and local governments.

In the long-term, ADL plans to focus on pushing politicians to address the increase in hate crimes and keep engaged with congressional committees and caucuses. 

“The way that we keep up this momentum and this information and this focus with elected representatives at the federal level is making sure that there’s the right rhythm of hearings and congressional inquiries and briefings that are being held for congressional staff and members on a consistent basis throughout the year,” he said. 

Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism, scheduled a hearing to focus on anti-Semitic domestic terrorism and government response to these attacks. The hearing will be Jan. 15 and was announced the day after the New York stabbing.

“All levels of government need to rise to the challenge, ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community, and do everything in our power to combat the disgusting hate and pervasive anti-Semitism,” Rose, who is Jewish, said in a statement.

Tags Anti-Defamation League anti-semitism Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer funding Hanukkah stabbing Jewish Jewish Federations of North America Judaism Max Rose Nonprofit Security Grant Program Orthodox Union Religion Security

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