OU Lauds Gov. Cuomo for Proposal to Expand Securing Communities Against Hate Program to Include Synagogues, Other Houses of Worship

January 31, 2020

The Orthodox Union – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – applauds New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his proposal to expand eligibility to synagogues and other houses of worship as part of New York state’s Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant Program.

Until now, the three-year-old program created by the governor was open to nonpublic schools and residential camps, non-profit day care centers, community centers and cultural museums vulnerable to attacks due to their ideology, beliefs or mission, but didn’t include synagogues and other houses of worship.

The current program provides $25 million in grants of up to $50,000 per facility to make physical security enhancements and support security training. Organizations that operate more than one facility may submit an application for each one, with a maximum of five applications totaling $250,000 allowed per organization.

The governor unveiled the proposal Thursday during the state’s first “No Hate In Our State” security grants conference in Manhattan, where more than 600 community and faith leaders, public safety officials, security experts and others gathered to discuss best practices for making vulnerable communities safe. The conference also focused on how eligible organizations can apply for the hate crimes grants.

The Orthodox Union has been at the forefront of advocating to protect houses of worship, nonpublic schools and other institutions at risk of attacks across the country. It was instrumental in the creation and expansion of New York’s hate crimes grant program as well as state programs in New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida and California.

In 2005, the Orthodox Union helped spearhead legislation that created the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), which provides grants of up to $100,000 apiece to synagogues and other houses of worship as well as nonpublic day schools and other nonprofits at risk of terror attacks. The funds can be used to make security improvements to buildings and hire security guards; to date, more than 4,000 institutions have received NSGP grants.

A bill signed into law days ago, and backed by the Orthodox Union, authorizes $375 million for each of the next five years to eligible institutions through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. That brings total funding for the NSGP, the only program of its kind in the country, to $794 million to date. The Orthodox Union is working with legislators to dramatically increase NSGP funding for this year.

Gov. Cuomo’s announcement comes in the wake of a series of violent anti-Semitic attacks on Chassidic Jews last month in Brooklyn and Monsey, N.Y., where an attacker went on a stabbing spree at the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg as congregants gathered to celebrate Chanukah. Five people were injured; one of them, 72-year-old Josef Neumann, remains in a coma.

Also in December, two Jews were among four people shot to death in a targeted attack at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City. From 2018-19, New York logged a total of 668 anti-Semitic attacks across the state, 30 percent of them in New York City.  In neighboring Pennsylvania, a gunman entered the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh in October 2018 and killed 11 people—the deadliest such attack on Jews in the United States. Afterward, the attacker told police he “wanted all Jews to die.” Six months later, a gunman killed entered a Chabad synagogue in Poway, Calif., killing congregant Lori Gilbert Kaye.

Said Orthodox Union President Moishe Bane:

“We are very grateful to Gov. Cuomo for his bold leadership in putting forth this vigorous proposal to expand New York’s existing hate crimes grant program so that our synagogues and other houses of worship have the security they need to be protected against those who seek to do them harm.”

Said Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Allen Fagin:

“It is our obligation to ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of faith, feel safe when they enter a synagogue, church, mosque or any other faith-based institution. Gov. Cuomo’s proposal goes a long way toward accomplishing this, and we urge the state legislature to take swift action to approve the expanded eligibility and funding for this program.”