An extra $30 million in federal grants are now available to protect houses of worship. It follows last week’s attacks in New York during Hanukah.
“This horrifying surge of anti-Semitism is deeply rooted and historic, maybe as old as our faith,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal. He released details on the increased federal grants Thursday at the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven.
“Knowing that we’re not alone and, at least in our case, a statewide effort in keeping all of us safe, that’s a very comforting thought,” said Rabbi Michael Farbman, chair of the New Haven Board of Rabbis.
The increase brings the total in available federal grants to $90 million, shared among smaller states including Connecticut. It also allows religious centers to make staffing upgrades, unlike with state grants.
“What we really need here is a security director, someone who is an expert in this topic,” said Judy Alperin of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven.
Staffing was a topic of discussion among the group of lawmakers and leaders in the Jewish Community, all assembled to hear details on the grants. Some detailed how they’ve had to cut staff and programs, and how they’ve had to make building changes to fund security efforts.
“After Pittsburgh we had to make some even tougher decisions like keeping our doors closed during services which we never wanted to agree to in the past,” said Farbman.
The federal grant funds are available to all houses of worship. Other religious leaders said they’ll also apply.
“It’s very much needed because many of our churches are not mega churches and we have tight budgets,” said Pastor Kelcy G. L. Steele of Varick Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church.
Steels said his church has been vandalized in the past. And in another case, its security equipment wasn’t helpful when it mattered.
“The New Haven Police Department had to come and look at our security footage only to find out the resolution was not as clear so it really didn’t help them in the situation,” said Steele.
Thursday's announcement was the beginning of what many said is a comprehensive plan to fight all forms of hate.
“Whether you worship Jesus, Allah or whoever, we should have the right and the safety to feel comfortable in our places of worship,” said Steele.
Some said coming together is the only way to end hate.
“We all have to say we want to live in a free, just, peaceful society where we say we care about each other, we don’t want to hurt one another,” said Alperin.