Contact: Nadav David

Jewish Communities Oppose Increased Funding for Nonprofit Security Grants Program

H.R.7493 proposes an additional $400 million to the Department of Homeland Security program.

New York, NY -- Organizations and synagogues representing tens of thousands of Jewish Americans are calling on Congress to reject increases to the Department of Homeland Security’s “Nonprofit Security Grants Program.” Instead, the organizations call on elected officials to affirm their commitment to fighting antisemitism and all forms of white supremacist violence through community-based, non-carceral approaches.

The sign-on letter is led by the Community Safety Campaign and Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ), and signed by Boston Workers Circle, Carolina Jews for Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow Movement, Kavod Boston, Never Again Action, and Synagogues Rising, a national network of multiracial synagogues in Seattle, Bay Area, Detroit, DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.

The Nonprofit Security Grants Program was created in 2005 as a response to lobbying from Jewish organizations, with support from other religious and arts organizations. It provides funding, channeled through the Department of Homeland Security, to support “nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attacks.” The program has largely served Jewish organizations with grants. A February 2021 analysis by the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy found that between 2008 and 2020, Jewish organizations were awarded a total of $170.3 million, 91%, of allocated NSGP funds.

While the program’s intentions to ensure safety for Jewish and other communities targeted by white supremacist violence is worthwhile, relying on the Department of Homeland Security, an agency that criminalizes, surveils, and harms communities, is misguided, misaligned with and in opposition to the social justice issues so many of our Jewish communities care deeply about. Several issues have been raised by stakeholders in the program, especially Muslim communities, who experience the program as another opportunity for federal surveillance under the guise of protection.

“Safety for our communities starts with addressing our criminalization,” said Fatema Ahmad, Executive Director of Muslim Justice League. “These grants allow DHS to claim they are supporting us while they’re the same ones who are profiling and surveilling Muslims, fostering violence and death at the border, and so much more. We can’t address white supremacist violence through institutions that commit white supremacist violence on a daily basis.”

Leo Ferguson, Director of Strategic Projects at Jews For Racial & Economic Justice adds, “All communities deserve to be safe, not just feel safe. Security grants do nothing to address the root causes of violence while advancing the illusory promise that turning places of worship into fortresses will stem the tide of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bigotry. What keeps us safe are the same things that keep everyone safe — a world where the United States doesn’t sponsor wars that antagonize our communities, and where all of us have the resources and care we need to thrive.”

Today’s letter reads:

Our Jewish communities are made up of people who are impacted by police and state violence, queer and trans, Arab, Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, undocumented, and disabled. Some of us wear visible markers of our religious practice, others do not. Therefore, the involvement of surveillance and law enforcement in our spiritual, educational and cultural institutions directly opposes our commitment to building supportive and welcoming environments.
Approaches to keep Jewish people safe must keep all of us, and our non-Jewish partners and neighbors safe, and the Nonprofit Security Grants Program fails to do so.
The congregations and organizations that signed the letter ask their elected officials to explore other possible funding mechanisms for community safety initiatives and programs that do not rely on or engage with the Department of Homeland Security, inspired by the Movement for Black Lives’ BREATHE Act.

Read the full letter here:

Organizations and congregations can add their name to the letter here.


Artwork by Francis Mead