OpinionAntisemitism

Stop making Jews pay an antisemitism tax

State and federal governments must step up to protect their citizens.

Illustrative image of the interior of a synagogue. Source: Stable Diffusion
Illustrative image of the interior of a synagogue. Source: Stable Diffusion
Maury Litwack, Credit: Courtesy.
Maury Litwack

Maury Litwack is the CEO of Teach Coalition, a project of the Orthodox Union, the nation's largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, dedicated to advocating for government funding and resources for non-public schools.

Angry protestors showing up to a New Jersey synagogue with hateful signs. Swastikas appearing on Jewish schools throughout the nation. Nearly 100 bomb threats received at Jewish institutions in California.

Antisemitism has been steadily rising over the past few decades but, since Oct. 7, it’s become much more pervasive online, in the streets and on college campuses. In fact, between Oct. 7, 2023 and Jan. 7, 2024, there were 3,283 antisemitic incidents in the U.S., including 60 physical assaults.

The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens. But since Oct. 7, Jewish communities everywhere have been forced to step up and pay an antisemitism tax—which involves securing their institutions on their own dime—to protect themselves in light of these heightened threats.

On top of this, the federal government recently cut funding to its nonprofit security grant program, run through the Department of Homeland Security, by $30.5 million. This grant program, which is for all types of nonprofits, gives funding to organizations for security.

Since Oct. 7, I’ve received hundreds of questions from concerned parents, synagogues and schools from Jews across the country regarding security and safety.

Many Jews won’t go to events that don’t have armed guards. Often, locations are hidden and events are announced at the last minute to avoid any protests or violence. Perhaps even more devastating, our Jewish schools and synagogues, which are places that should be our safe havens for learning and gathering, have had to hire armed guards and spend money—sometimes money they don’t have—building up their security systems to protect their people.

A recent study conducted by my nonprofit organization Teach Coalition found that Jewish day schools have had to spend, on average, a staggering 47% more on security needs since Oct. 7. Without proper funding from our government, that bill is too often passed on to our communities and families, putting an enormous and unsustainable financial burden on them.

Sadly, this is not a new fight for us. We have lived through some of the worst antisemitic attacks in American history like the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, the Poway Chabad center shooting and the Chanukkah attack by a masked man wielding a machete in Monsey.

However, after Oct. 7, the need significantly increased. Previous events happened because of hateful individuals. Now, hate is spreading on a much wider scale, and no longer can Jews cover this cost alone.

While some state governments have stepped up to provide funding to their Jewish populations and other vulnerable nonprofits, it’s not enough. If governments cannot stop hateful protestors from taking over the streets and showing up at Jewish institutions or unhinged antisemites from going after Jews, the least they can do is provide the Jewish community with the resources to shield itself from threats.

It’s time for our entire government to help, grant us the funding we urgently need and protect its citizens.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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