New Jersey law enshrines security funding for faith-based organizations and places of worship

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Jewish groups are praising New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy for making permanent a nonprofit security grant program that provides security funding to faith-based organizations.

“With hate crimes on the rise, we must do everything we can to protect vulnerable communities from security threats,” the governor said in a news release Tuesday. “This legislation provides funding that will allow nonprofits that are at high risk of being targeted to take steps to protect themselves. Our administration will always act as a partner to those who are targeted and threatened. »

His announcement came days after the January 15 hostage-taking at Beth Israel Congregations in Colleyville, Texas, though it had been in the works for months.

Jason Shames, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, said in a press release, “We have worked tirelessly with our partners in the legislature and the nonprofit community to ensure the safety and security of religious and nonprofit institutions in our state. Particularly in light of recent anti-Semitic incidents locally and across the country, it is essential to continue this important work with our partners to protect all of our citizens from acts of violence and hatred. Making the non-profit security grant program permanent goes a long way toward that goal. »

Jennifer Dubrow Weiss, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, echoed her colleague, saying in a press release: “The use of funds made available through the Non-Profit Security Grant Program profit has been vital not only to improving physical safety within our community. institutions, but also demonstrating a real appreciation for the vulnerability that many people continue to feel in our community.

As part of the ongoing funding, grants of up to $50,000 will be available for nonprofits “most at risk of attack.” The money can be used to purchase necessary equipment, with up to $10,000 for security personnel.

Like the pilot program, which expired in 2020, it will be coordinated by the State’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, which is responsible for requesting $2 million a year to fund the program.

Although there is now a starting point for this, it will be up to the state legislature to allocate regular funds as part of the annual budget.

“Times have not improved since the pilot program started; we’ve all seen the reports,” State Assembly members Annette Quijano, Valerie Vaineri-Huttle and Robert Karabinchak said in the governor’s press release. “Many faith-based nonprofits remain at risk and the need for security has increased. … Thanks to the pilot program, we were able to see the need for funding. Now is the time to make this support an ongoing priority.

Nearly 300 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in New Jersey in 2020, the most recent data available. According to the Anti-Defamation League, nearly two-thirds of these incidents were described as harassment; vandalism accounted for the remaining third. Assaults were a minor part of the final numbers.

Rabbi Avi Schnall, executive director of Agudath Israel of America in New Jersey, told JNS that the governor’s action “is a very positive step and good direction to continue to help ensure places of worship are protected. “.

He added that this does not solve the security problem, but “I don’t think anything will solve the problem. We will always need more, and that’s a shame.

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