NEW YORK (JTA) — Sen. Charles Schumer slammed President Donald Trump’s budget proposal that could jeopardize a security assistance program for nonprofits that benefits Jewish institutions, citing threats to Jewish sites across the United States.
“At a time where perpetrators are terrorizing the Jewish community across the country, even here in New York, it makes no sense to slash FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program; we should be putting more money in terrorism prevention for at-risk non-profits, not less,” Schumer, D-N.Y., the Jewish minority leader of the Senate, said Monday in a statement to JTA.
“These federal dollars have been critical in making sure that high-risk organizations like JCCs, Jewish schools and congregations of all kinds are safe and protected from potential terrorist attacks.”
Congress currently funds the grant program at $20 million per year. The vast majority of funds have gone to Jewish institutions since the program was launched in 2005, providing the nonprofits with money for security upgrades, including barricades and security cameras.
Trump’s budget proposes rolling the funds for nonprofit protection into broader federal emergency preparedness funds disbursed to the states and overall cuts of $667 million in preparedness grants.
Jewish sites have received bomb threats and anti-Semitic vandalism this year. Close to 150 community centers, schools and Anti-Defamation League offices across the United States received bomb threats and three cemeteries have been vandalized.
Last week, Jewish community officials urged Congress to preserve the security assistance program.
“Congress should consider ways to strengthen the program rather than dismantle it,” William Daroff, the Washington director of the Jewish Federations of North America, said Thursday in testimony to a House subcommittee.
Groups like Jewish Federations, which lobbied for the program, oppose such a rollover, saying smaller nonprofits would get lost in the competition for the funds. Former President Barack Obama also proposed a rollover.
“Keeping the programs separated and segregated serves the interests of the country,” Daroff said.
Republican lawmakers and the Trump administration argue that applicants for the preparedness grants must do more to show need.
Josefin Dolsten is a former news fellow at the Forward, writing about politics and culture, and editing the Sisterhood blog. She received an MA in Jewish Studies and Comparative Religion from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BA in Government from Cornell University. Follow her on Twitter at @josefindolsten.