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Proposed slashes to US security-grant program cause concern across aisle

“We’re going to be fighting over the next few weeks to make sure there isn’t a cut,” said Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center.

Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union's executive director of public policy, speaks alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at a New York City press conference calling for an increase in funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to $360 million, so more synagogues, other houses of worship and nonprofits at risk of attack can improve building security, Jan. 26, 2022. Credit: Orthodox Union.
Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union's executive director of public policy, speaks alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at a New York City press conference calling for an increase in funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to $360 million, so more synagogues, other houses of worship and nonprofits at risk of attack can improve building security, Jan. 26, 2022. Credit: Orthodox Union.

In the current fiscal year, $305 million is available through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for “target hardening and other physical security enhancements and activities to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attack.”

The current U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations Bill proposal would trim that by $18 million—to $287 million. This proposal from the committee, chaired by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), president pro tempore, is drawing criticism from Jewish organizations.

Elana Broitman, senior vice president of public affairs at the Jewish Federations of North America, told JNS that the $305 million in funding only met 42% of the nation’s security needs.

She told JNS that the Federations are “disappointed” by the proposed cuts from the Homeland Security Subcommittee’s proposed cuts to the “vital” security program, “particularly as antisemitic attacks and other faith-motivated hate crimes are at an alarming high.”

The proposed $287 million is just about three-quarters of the $360 million listed in the Biden administration’s budget and the White House’s national strategy to counter antisemitism. “We are grateful that the House has included an increase to $315 million in its appropriation bill, and we urge Congress to pass a funding level at least at this level for this program that is critical to the safety of our communities,” Broitman said.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who chairs the subcommittee, declined to comment on the proposed cut. A congressional aide to the senator, who declined to be named, said in a statement to JNS that Murphy supports the $360 million, but “due to the reduction in our topline spending numbers, we proposed even, across the board cuts in all FEMA funding.”

“This includes reductions in direct response funding, assistance to firefighters, port security grants and flood mitigation, among others,” the aide said. “This was not unique to the homeland security bill; other spending bills also saw cuts.”

JNS asked if Murphy disputes the claim from Jewish Federations that the cuts would result in insufficient funding to keep Americans safe. The aide said the senator’s office “cannot confirm the accuracy of the figure related to security needs due to a lack of available data.”

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) Credit: U.S. Senate Photography via Wikimedia Commons.

“The senator will work to get additional funding for the program as part of negotiations on the final appropriations bill,” the aide added.

Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.), ranking member of the subcommittee, told JNS that she supports funding the grant program in light of rising antisemitism. “Antisemitism has no place in our nation,” she said. “I support robust funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program.”

An aide, who also declined to be named, to Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) told JNS that the senator doesn’t agree with the cut, saying he has supported the grant program for years and “will continue to fight for more resources.”

None of the other seven subcommittee members—three Democrats and four Republicans—responded to multiple JNS queries. Murray is also a member of the subcommittee.

‘There is a great demand for these resources’

Other Jewish advocacy groups also voiced displeasure with the proposed cut. Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, sent out an action alert on Wednesday urging members to contact their elected senators to oppose the cut.

“We’re going to be fighting over the next few weeks to make sure there isn’t a cut,” he told JNS. “There is a great demand for these resources not only in the Jewish community but other faith communities as well.”

Diament praised Britt’s support of continued funding for the program. “This was a good statement on her part,” he said. “My hope is that we can work with her not only to avoid a cut but also to secure increased funding for the NSGP.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told JNS that he is “deeply disappointed” in the cut after the House Homeland Security Appropriations Bill recommending funding at $315 million.

“These grants are critical to the safety and security of not only the Jewish community, but nonprofits and religious institutions around the country,” he said.

B’nai B’rith International is “deeply concerned about efforts to reduce funding for the crucial Nonprofit Security Grant Program,” Daniel Mariaschin, CEO of the nonprofit, told JNS. 

“We worry for the safety of our community as antisemitism, including threats and attacks on Jewish institutions, is surging and Jews remain by far the most highly targeted religious group among hate crime victims,” he said. “We urge Congress to continue robust funding for this vital program.”

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