Photo Courtesy of DHS/Jetta Disco
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
By Forum Staff
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Friday led a bipartisan letter signed by 18 senators and sent to the Department of Homeland Security urging DHS Secretary John Kelly to increase federal funds set for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program for Fiscal Year 2018 and fully fund the program at $50 million.
The senators cited recent threats to Jewish community centers and cultural and religious institutions across the country for the need for increased funding. The funds would help cover costs to support efforts to build and sustain core capabilities across prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery to meet growing threats, the senators said.
“New Yorkers shouldn’t have to live or worship in fear,” Gillibrand said. “Hate crimes and threats are on the rise and we can’t stand idly by and do nothing or pretend it’s not happening. Now more than ever we need to make sure our places of worship and community centers have the right resources to protect themselves. I’m asking the Trump administration to take these threats seriously and dedicate more federal dollars to protecting religious and community centers.”
In the missive to Kelly, the senators noted that the “NSGP provides funding support for target hardening and other physical security enhancements to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack. These costs support efforts to build and sustain core capabilities across the Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery mission areas, all of which are key to achieve the National Preparedness Goal.”
The senators also cited 11 examples of recent threats or assaults across the country, including last month, when a Jewish woman was verbally abused and shoved aboard a City subway by a man who recited from an anti-Semitic pamphlet. The suspect tossed the woman, an unnamed 25-year-old, after shouting at her “Dirty Jew” and “Hail the Hitler Youth!” the elected officials wrote.
“At a time when children are being evacuated from daycare centers in response to repeated bomb threats and Mosques are deliberately being set on fire, we must ensure that all organizations that face these threats have the support they need,” they said. “It is simply unacceptable to not act. Since the beginning of 2017 there have been over 100 threats made against Jewish centers and schools. The recent increase in religiously motivated threats and attacks have shown the importance of providing institutions with the tools to meet these threats.”
Gillibrand was joined by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Al Franken (D-MN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) , Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Gary C. Peters (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Richard J. Durbin (D-IL).
“The recent spate of bomb threats and other acts of anti-Semitism underscore the threat to the very institutions that the non-profit security grant program was designed to safeguard. Given the increase in threats, the support for increasing the funds for the program is essential,” said William Daroff, senior vice president, The Jewish Federations of North America.