Members of Congress called for increased funding to help nonprofit American Jewish communities and places of worship increase security on Wednesday amid heightened tensions between Israel and Hamas, as well as a rise in antisemitism around the world and U.S.
In a bipartisan proposal, Reps. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz, and Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee to include additional funding for FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), to protect these communities from targeted hate crimes and domestic terrorism.
The proposal comes nearly a week after Hamas-led militants poured into Israel on Saturday, killing more than 1,300 Israelis in a horrific surprise attack.
“The images of the barbarism perpetrated by Hamas terrorists against innocent Israeli civilians are sickening,” Gallego said. “Right now, it is as critical as ever that we stand firm in Israel’s defense, and I’m continuing to work to ensure Israel receives the resources it needs to defend itself.”
The congressman pointed to the horrific events taking place in the Eastern Mediterranean countries, saying leaders cannot ignore the rise in antisemitism, not just on the other side of the world, but here in the U.S.
“We must also work in a bipartisan fashion to protect America’s Jewish communities,” Gallego said. “That is why any supplemental package considered in Congress must include bolstered funding to improve the security of religious institutions so that Americans feel safe in their places of worship.”
Funding for the NSGP comes from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and can be used to enhance security of nonprofits.
The money can also go toward target hardening or strengthening the security of buildings to protect them in the event of an attack and to ensure the organizations’ assets are safe and secure.
With the increased antisemitism, the fear is that places of worship will become targets for terrorists, particularly synagogues.
In their letter to members of the House Appropriations Committee, Gallego and Lawler said over the past few years, there has been a rise in antisemitic incidents across the U.S., which have surged by 36% in the most recent year, and average about 10 incidents per day.
The congressmen said Jewish institutions were targeted in 589 of the incidents.
“Unfortunately, this disturbing trend may worsen over the coming weeks and months,” the letter reads, pointing to the terrorist attacks in Israel, which have fostered antisemitic rhetoric and hate speech in the U.S.
It continues, suggesting funding for “vulnerable institutions,” like synagogues, Jewish community centers and Jewish schools, is needed for protection against terrorist attacks.
Lawler said in a statement that Hamas’ “unprecedented” attack against Israel “left the world in shock and horror.”
“It is truly sickening to see and hear about the atrocities committed by these cold-blooded killers, including the indiscriminate murder of children and the elderly,” he said. “During this time of rising prolific and rampant anti-Semitism, we must take every step necessary to ensure the safety of American Jewish communities.”