America’s Jewish communities are under attack Here are 3 things Congress can do | TheHill – The Hill

Posted By on May 10, 2021

This weekend, the New York Police Department arrested 29-year-old Jordan Burnette, accused of perpetrating a three-day spree of attacks against four synagogues in New York Citys Riverdale neighborhood. He was charged with 42 criminal counts including several hate crimes.

For three straight days last month, Burnette is alleged to have smashed doors and windows at these houses of prayer and invaded their sacred spaces, leaving behind a wake of strewn prayer books.

The violence against these pillars of Jewish life came days before a new report documenting that despite almost an entire year of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic anti-Semitism remains at near historically high levels in the United States. In fact, 2020 marked the third-highest year for incidents against Americas Jews in more than 40 years.

In the face of this, Congress must do more to protect Americas Jewish communities.

While Jews have faced discrimination in this country since its founding, it wasnt typically of a violent nature. However, during the past year alone, 2,024 anti-Semitic incidents ranging from harassment to vandalism and assault were recorded a mere 4 percent decrease from the all-time high of 2019. During COVID-19, far from dissipating, the assaults often shifted online: 114 schools, synagogues and other Jewish institutions were the targets of anti-Semitic Zoom bombing, with perpetrators using Nazi symbols, other anti-Semitic messages and verbal assaults to disrupt live video conferences and intimidate participants.

The FBIs most recent hate crimes report affirms these findings and notes that Jews remain by far the religious group most targeted for hate crimes, comprising 60 percent of them. Muslims, the second-most targeted group, faced 13 percent of such crimes.

Just two-and-a-half years ago, we witnessed the deadliest attack ever on Jews in American history, when a gunman massacred 11 people at Pittsburghs Tree of Life synagogue. Six months later, a woman was shot to death at a synagogue in Poway, Calif. The following year, two Jews were murdered at a kosher market in Jersey City; days later, five were stabbed at a Chanukah celebration in Rockland County, N.Y. And the list goes on.

In recent days, the countrys top law enforcement officials have pledged to crack down on domestic terrorism: Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandOne quick asylum fix: How Garland can help domestic violence survivors DOJ faces big decision on home confinement DOJ proposes crackdown on 'ghost guns' following Biden pledge MORE, during his first major speech since taking office, said he would treat it as a top priority; Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasSinema urges Biden to take 'bold' action at border: 'This is a crisis' Hillicon Valley: Broadband companies funded fake net neutrality comments, investigation finds | Twitter rolls out tip feature | Google to adopt 'hybrid work week' America's Jewish communities are under attack Here are 3 things Congress can do MORE announced an internal review to address the threat of domestic violent extremism within the department, including identifying, addressing, and preventing domestic violent extremism across the country. Members of Congress have properly shown their willingness to take new steps to protect threatened minorities: Last month, following a rash of attacks against Asian-American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and thousands of COVID-19-related incidents of AAPI discrimination, Congress passed legislation that would create a position at the Department of Justice to track and expedite the review of COVID-19 hate crimes.

Here are three ways Congress can act immediately to protect American Jews and other communities of faith:

1) Increase funding for the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP).Administered by the Department of Homeland Security, the NSGP provides grants of up to $150,000 apiece for houses of worship, parochial schools and other nonprofits at risk of terror attacks so they may pay for security equipment such ranging from fences, lighting and video surveillance to metal detectors and blast-resistant doors, locks and windows. Funding may also be used to train staff and volunteers and pay for contracted security personnel.

During the past 16 years, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (Orthodox Union) has worked with bipartisan allies in Congress to secure $599 million for the program, and individual grants have been disbursed to more than 4,000 organizations nationwide. Despite this increase, NSGP funding hasnt kept pace with the alarming rate of anti-Jewish attacks, and isnt nearly enough to help all of the organizations that have applied in recent years. Now, more than 145 members of the House, led by Reps. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellAmerica's Jewish communities are under attack Here are 3 things Congress can do Democrats warn Waters censure move opens floodgates Lawmakers launch bipartisan caucus on SALT deduction MORE (D-N.J.) and John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoHillicon Valley: US, UK authorities say Russian hackers exploited Microsoft vulnerabilities | Lawmakers push for more cyber funds in annual appropriations | Google child care workers ask for transportation stipend Lawmakers push for increased cybersecurity funds in annual appropriations America's Jewish communities are under attack Here are 3 things Congress can do MORE (R-N.Y.) have written to appropriators asking to double existing funding to $360 million for 2022, and we urge this be done right away.

2) Pass the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021 (H.R.350 and S.964). This important bipartisan legislation, introduced in the House by Reps. Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderAmerica's Jewish communities are under attack Here are 3 things Congress can do Lawmakers demand justice for Adam Toledo: 'His hands were up. He was unarmed' Democrats see opportunity in GOP feud with business MORE (D-Ill.) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickAmerica's Jewish communities are under attack Here are 3 things Congress can do Biden visits local Mexican restaurant to highlight relief program Police reform talks ramp up amid pressure from Biden, families MORE (R-Pa.) in January, and in the Senate by Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDOJ faces big decision on home confinement America's Jewish communities are under attack Here are 3 things Congress can do Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel MORE (D-Ill.), would enhance the federal governments efforts to prevent domestic terrorism by establishing offices in the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the Department of Justice dedicated to combating this threat; requiring federal law enforcement agencies to regularly assess this threat; and providing training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement in addressing it. Law enforcement leaders have said the lack of such a statute has hampered their work. Congress must pass this pending legislation.

3) Expand local law enforcement capacity. Most local police departments lack sufficient resources to sufficiently patrol our communities in the face of current threats, leaving too many synagogues as well as mosques, churches and other houses of worship to scrape together the money to hire off-duty police or private security guards to protect their congregations. If governments first obligation is to keep its citizens safe, this is absurd. Congress must direct some of the millions of dollars in grants distributed by the Department of Justice to police departments to support increased patrols at houses of worship particularly during times of heavy attendance such as the Sabbath and other holidays.

Religious freedom can only be enjoyedwhen people of faith have freedom from fear. Congress can, and must, do much more to protect Americas Jews and all communities of faith.

Nathan J. Diament is executive director for public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (the Orthodox Union)

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America's Jewish communities are under attack Here are 3 things Congress can do | TheHill - The Hill

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