In the wake of this month’s deadly attack on a Jersey City kosher grocery store, state and federal officials announced new funds to beef up security at religious institutions.
Late last week, New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that nonprofits are set to receive $90 million in federal funding through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides funding to improve security at institutions at-risk for targeted terror attacks. The new budget, an agreement reached as part of the larger bipartisan budget deal, represents a $30 million increase from last year’s $60 million allocation.
“With horrific hate crimes and terror attacks against places of worship and schools becoming more frequent, we must do all we can to help protect people of all faiths worship and gather in safety and security,” said Schumer in a statement Friday.
On the state level, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced last week that more than $10 million has been awarded to enhance security at non-public schools and cultural centers, including religioun-based institutions, to protect against hate crimes. The grant, which is administered by the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, will provide up to $50,000 in funding for additional security training, cameras, door-hardening, improved lighting, state-of-the-art technology and other related security upgrades at eligible facilities, according to a statement from Cuomo’s office.
“The cancer of hate and division spreading across this country is repugnant to the values of diversity and inclusion we hold dear in New York,” Cuomo said. “We are continuing to do everything we can to stamp out threats and acts of violence targeting religious and cultural institutions, and this new grant funding will allow many of these organizations to enhance their security measures and help keep people safe.”
This is the second round of funding distributed through New York’s Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant Program and will support 207 projects; round one included $14.8 million in grants that funded more than 300 projects.
According to the New York Police Department, the number of hate crimes in New York City surged by 64 percent this year, fueled primarily by a spike in anti-Semitic attacks. The increase — with 184 hate crimes recorded through June 2, compared to 112 hate crimes in 2018 — takes place amid an overall reduction of crime rates citywide.
Earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called upon lawmakers and law enforcement authorities to address the “climate of hate” in the United States, after the FBI released data showing that Jews and Jewish institutions were the overwhelming target of religion-based hate crimes last year. While religion-based hate crimes decreased by 8 percent from 2017, nearly 60 percent of hate crime attacks were targeted against Jews and Jewish institutions in 2018.
Jewish groups have been major beneficiaries of federal and local security programs, using grant money to add barriers or install security systems at Jewish community centers, schools and synagogues. Three Jewish groups in particular — the Orthodox Union, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Agudath Israel of America — helped launch the federal program in 2005 and continued lobbying for its existence.
“The Jewish community has a strong stake in this legislation,” said Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s vice president for government affairs and Washington director. “It is no secret that our community institutions – shuls, schools, religious facilities, charitable and social service centers – are facing the increasing reality of hate and violence, and this substantial increase will help save lives.”
On Dec 10., Jersey City supermarket owner Mindy Ferencz; a shopper, Moshe Deutsch; and an employee, Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, were killed by a pair of shooters who authorities say had targeted the store in an act of hate. Joseph Seals, a police detective, was killed after confronting the two suspects before the attack on the JC Kosher Supermarket. Both suspects died during an hours-long gun battle with the police.
On Sunday, family members of the three people killed at the store were among those who gathered to light the first Chanukah candle there. Jersey City police officers who were injured in the shootout were also honored at the event.