As a Result of Recent Threats to Jewish Community Centers and Other Religious and Cultural Institutions, Cardin and Van Hollen Urge Department of Homeland Security to Increase Critical Federal Security Funds in Fiscal Year ‘18
U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) have signed a bipartisan letter tothe Department of Homeland Security urging Secretary John Kelly to increase federal funds programmed to the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) for Fiscal Year 2018 and fully fund the program at $50 million. The Senators cited recent threats to Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and cultural and religious institutions across the country for the need for increased funding. The funds would help cover costs to support efforts to build and sustain core capabilities across prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery to meet growing threats. In Maryland, the most recent wave of threats included Jewish day schools in Rockville and Annapolis, and a Jewish Community Center in Owings Mills. Since November, additional incidents have been reported in Montgomery, Prince George's and Howard County, as well as Baltimore City.
"At a time when children are being evacuated from daycare centers in response to repeated bomb threats and Mosques are deliberately being set on fire, we must ensure that all organizations that face these threats have the support they need. It is simply unacceptable to not act," the Senators wrote in their joint letter. "Since the beginning of 2017 there have been over 100 threats made against Jewish centers and schools. The recent increase in religiously motivated threats and attacks have shown the importance of providing institutions with the tools to meet these threats."
Senators Cardin and Van Hollen were joined on the letter with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Margaret Wood Hassan (D-N.H.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).
The full text of the Senators' joint letter is included here and below:
March 9, 2017
John F. Kelly
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Kelly:
As you develop President Trump's budget, we would like to request that you increase the amount of money programmed to address the wave of threats to Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) andcultural and religious institutions across the country. Synagogues, mosques and cultural centers are confronted with increasing levels of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, bigotry, and hate and it is therefore imperative that the amount of funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) be fully funded at $50 million to meet these increased threats.
The NSGP provides funding support for target hardening and other physical security enhancements to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack. These costs support efforts to build and sustain core capabilities across the Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery mission areas all of which are key to achieve the National Preparedness Goal.
At a time when children are being evacuated from daycare centers in response to repeated bomb threats and Mosques are deliberately being set on fire, we must ensure that all organizations that face these threats have the support they need. It is simply unacceptable to not act. Since the beginning of 2017 there have been over 100 threats made against Jewish centers and schools. The recent increase in religiously motivated threats and attacks have shown the importance of providing institutions with the tools to meet these threats.
Recent threats or assaults across the United States
·Kent, Washington, March 3, 2017 (Seattle Times): An unknown masked gunman approached a Sikh resident of Kent, WA in his driveway, apparently said, "Go back to your own country," then shot and wounded him. A search for the shooter is still underway, and the FBI is investigating the incident as a hate crime.
·Cherry Hill, New Jersey, February 27, 2017 (NJ.com): The Katz Jewish Center received a threat via a phone call and as many as 500 people inside the center were evacuated. The Camden County Bomb Squad swept the facility and found no explosive devices. The FBI and Department of Justice are investigating this incident, and others, for possible civil rights violations.
·Communities Across Pennsylvania, February 26 and 27, 2017 (Philadelphia Inquirer): Following the desecration and vandalism of a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, Jewish community centers and day schools in towns across Pennsylvania were evacuated on February 27 following bomb threats.
·Tampa, Florida, February 24, 2017 (CNN): The local fire department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) are jointly investigating an arson committed against the Islamic Society of New Tampa. While the investigation is ongoing, Tampa officials and local advocates drew comparisons to the string of bomb threats against Jewish institutions and expressed fear that this incident was hate-related.
·University City, Missouri, February 21, 2017 (UPI/Fox2 News St. Louis): Investigators with the University City Police Department are investigating the desecration of more than 100 headstones in an organized act of vandalism at a historic Jewish cemetery in University City, Missouri.
·Dearborn, Michigan, February 19, 2017 (Detroit Free Press): Dearborn police are investigating a call to the American Moslem Society mosque threatening Muslims and their children. The unidentified caller disparaged members' faith and said they should be "eradicated."
·Eugene, Oregon, February 16, 2017 (The Register-Guard): Eugene police are investigating two more incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism downtown, less than two weeks after the Whiteaker neighborhood was the target of Nazi-related graffiti. A passerby reported to police finding a swastika painted on the glass of an elevator in a downtown parking garage. A second caller reported that a man riding a bike stopped to hang an Aryan Brotherhood flier on a Lane Events Center sign. The sign is near a house that displays a Jewish symbol.
·Chicago, Illinois, February 4, 2017 (Chicago Tribune): A man was charged with a felony hate crime after smashing a window and placing two swastikas on the door of the Chicago Loop Synagogue. This act of vandalism came amid bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers in Lake Zurich, Illinois, and Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood.
·New York, New York, February 3, 2017 (JTA/NY Daily News): A Jewish woman was verbally abused and shoved aboard a New York City subway by a man who recited from an anti-Semitic pamphlet. The suspect shoved the woman, an unnamed 25-year-old, after shouting at her "Dirty Jew" and "Hail the Hitler Youth!"
·Newton, Massachusetts, January 18, 2017 (Boston Globe): A threatening call was made to the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center in Newton, resulting in the building's evacuation. After a police investigation, the building re-opened one hour later. The threatening call was similar to calls received by dozens of other JCCs throughout the country.
·Beanblossom, Indiana, December 18, 2016 (CNN): Vandals had painted "Heil Trump," an anti-gay slur and a swastika on the side of a church, Saint David's Episcopal in Beanblossom, Indiana.
These are just a fraction of the threats and assaults that are occurring across the United States. It is unacceptable that in a country founded on principles of religious freedom that these heinous acts are occurring. We respectfully urge you to secure $50 million for NSGP in the President's FY18 budget in order to show solidarity and to help protect those affected by these egregious threats and attacks.
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