Trump signs bill boosting security funding for houses of worship
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Trump signs bill boosting security funding for houses of worship

Top Jewish group hails ‘vitally important’ measure, which provides billions of dollars to ‘secure nonprofit facilities from terrorist attacks’

US President Trump hosts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House,  January 27, 2020. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
US President Trump hosts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, January 27, 2020. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

One of the United States’ largest Jewish umbrella organizations on Tuesday praised US President Donald Trump after he signed a bill authorizing the granting of hundreds of millions of dollars to “secure nonprofit facilities from terrorist attacks.”

The Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act of 2019, which Trump signed on Friday, allocates $75 million in security funding a year for the next five years ($375 million in total) to provide security infrastructure, training and other aid to a range of institutions including synagogues.

This comes on top of other government efforts to secure synagogues and other likely targets of hate crimes. Last month, the House Appropriations Committee approved an increase in the pool of available security grants available for non-profits under the State Homeland Security Grant Program by $30 million, bringing the total available to $90 million a year.

“We commend President Trump for signing the Securing Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations from Terrorism Act of 2019, which authorizes a total of $375 million in federal security grants for non-profits including synagogues, churches, and mosques,” said Arthur Stark and Malcolm Hoenlein, the chairman and the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

President Donald Trump looks on as Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, survivor of the Poway, Calif synagogue shooting, speaks during a National Day of Prayer event in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 2, 2019. (YouTube screenshot)

“At a time of sharply increasing bias incidents across the country, especially anti-Jewish acts, this funding will be vitally important.”

Nathan Diament, Director for Public Policy for the Orthodox Union, a nationwide network of orthodox synagogues, likewise thanked Trump, tweeting a picture of OU officials and others watching the president sign the bill.

“We’re very grateful to President Trump for authorizing this funding to keep synagogues, churches and other houses of worship safe,” he said in a statement. “Jews today are facing violence on a scale we have never witnessed before in America, and the perpetrators must be stopped. The president’s actions demonstrate his understanding of these threats and the need to protect not only Jews, but all people of faith.”

 

Some critics, including former vice president and Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, have condemned the president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric for inspiring anti-Semitism and racism. In a post on Medium last month, Biden wrote that “Trump has presided over a historic increase in hate crimes and biased-incidents targeting people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ Americans, and people of Jewish faith,” adding that at the end of Trump’s first year in office, “anti-Semitic incidents increased nearly 60%, the largest one-year increase since the Anti-Defamation League started keeping records 40 years ago.”

According to statistics released by the FBI last November, Jews were again the victims of the majority of hate crimes based on religion in the United States in 2018.

The surge of fatal attacks on the Jewish community, including shooting rampages at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018, and at a synagogue in Poway, California, in April 2019, have caused consternation nationwide.

Between the December 10 fatal shooting at a Jewish grocery store in Jersey City and the end of the first week of January, there were more than 30 anti-Semitic incidents, in the US — including a stabbing attack at a Hannukah party in Monsey, New York — according to the Anti-Defamation League.

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