Jan 21, 2022 2 mins, 8 secs
Citing a significant nationwide anti-semitism crisis, including last week's 11-hour standoff with a gunman at a Texas synagogue, Jewish leaders are pushing Congress to dramatically expand a federal program that has provided nearly half a billion dollars over the last six years in security funding for churches, synagogues and other faith-based institutions.

Eric Fingerhut, president of the Jewish Federation of North America, which represents 300 independent Jewish communities and is headquartered in New York, said the funding has been quintessential in protecting thousands of worshippers that would have otherwise left them to face up to violent threats alone.

The Jewish Federations of North America first proposed Congress support the security needs of the synagogues and churches after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Department of Homeland Security, which manages the Nonprofit Security Grant Program launched in 2004, funding has climbed from $20 million in 2016 to $180 million last year.

But Jewish leaders said more is needed, with some even calling for doubling funding to $360 million. Earlier this week, 1,500 Jewish leaders met with Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas via Zoom to enlist support for more security funding.

While the grants program is available to any group facing the highest risk of terrorism-related activity regardless of religious affiliation, historically upward of 80% of the funding has been allocated to Jewish groups. Liza Acevedo, a spokesperson at the Department of Homeland Security, said the Texas synagogue attacked over the weekend had previously received funding from the program.

"We must dedicate more funding to this vital effort," said Mayorkas.

Both the rhetoric of those responsible for September’s attacks and past experience support this view," read a November 2001 letter submitted by leaders of the Jewish community to the then-Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on the first congressional hearing on the security needs of states and localities?

Frank Figliuzzi, the former assistant director of the FBI for counterintelligence and author of "The FBI Way," said heightened security measures and trainings have extended beyond synagogues to Hebrew schools, assisted-living facilities, retirement communities and nursing homes that predominantly serve Jewish communities because of the increased threat level.

"Not even when synagogues were being firebombed during the civil rights era in the 1960s did they close their doors," said Gary Zola, a historian and executive director at the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati.

Nearly 1 in 4 American Jews has been the subject of anti-semitism over the past year, according to a report by the American Jewish Committee, an advocacy group

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