Beefing up security

Beefing up security

Congressman Pascrell wants to more than double security grants

William Pascrell
William Pascrell

The federal grant program that has enabled synagogues and other Jewish institutions in northern New Jersey to upgrade their security would more than double under a proposal advocated by Congressman Bill Pascrell (D. NJ-9).

Mr. Pascrell has sent a letter asking that the allocation for the grant program be raised to $50 million annually. The letter was signed by 112 congressman, including all but one of New Jersey’s congressional representatives, and addressed to the co-chairs of the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Homeland Security. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R. NJ-11), who heads the Appropriations Committee itself, is the only member of the state congressional delegation not to sign the bipartisan letter.

“With the rise of hate groups in our nation, now more than ever Congress needs to strengthen the NPSGG,” the letter declared. (That’s the Non Profit Security Grant Program.)

The funding allows nonprofit organizations to apply for grants for specific forms of security improvements. Synagogues and other Jewish institutions have received a large portion of the grants since the program began a decade ago.

Mr. Pascrell drafted the letter in the wake of the series of bomb threats made to Jewish community centers and other Jewish institutions in January and February. This week, Israel indicted an 18-year-old Jewish man with dual Israeli American citizenship for the bomb threats as well as many other cyberthreats stretching back several years. The man’s name cannot be disclosed under Israeli law because he was a minor at the time of the offenses.

Mr. Pascrell said that the discovery that the threats were coming from a Jewish teen does not lessen the need for more funding for Jewish institutions.

“These threats are coming through not only in calls but in verbal threats in meetings,” he said, noting an upsurge of white supremacist hate groups. As the letter detailed: “According to a report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups in the United States rose in 2016, and at least 550 of the 917 groups are anti-Semitic in nature. The report details groups active in 2016, which include 99 categorized as neo-Nazi, 100 as white nationalist, 130 as Ku Klux Klan and 21 as Christian Identity, a religious movement that says whites are the true Israelites and Jews are descended from Satan.”

The point of the request for funding: “No one should feel unsafe in a place of worship or in a community center,” Mr. Pascrell said.

“I had talks with some of the folks who signed on last time we did this,” he continued, explaining why he wrote the letter. “I said we’re going to have to put more money into the program. Let’s bring the number to $50 million.”

That’s the sum of all the grant proposals the Department of Homeland Security received last year for the $20 million in available allocations, he said.

Will the funding increase materialize?

“I’m very optimistic,” the congressman said. “It has to go to the Appropriations Committee. I’ve already talked to my good friend Rodney Frelinghuysen about that. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure it gets a fair hearing.”

The program is targeted for urban and suburban areas, and that, along with the large Jewish community, has meant that New Jersey has been second only to New York in receiving grants under the program.

“Last year, New Jersey received more than $4 million,” Mr. Pascrell said. “The feds know this is a multifaceted state. They know where the threats are coming from. There’s a great need here.

“I’m happy I’ve been able to assist those communities in the district who applied.”

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