North Jersey houses of worship get fed funds to fight hate crimes
New Jersey's 5th Congressional District covers the northern border of the Garden State, encompassing parts of Bergen, Passaic, Sussex, and Warren counties. Its territory is in close proximity to the sites of two notorious attacks last December: a shooting in Jersey City killing four, including a police officer, and a stabbing at a rabbi's home in Monsey, New York, which resulted in one death.
Preventing further tragedies, while still preparing houses of worship and other organizations for the possibility they may happen, is the goal behind new funding procured from the Nonprofit Security Grant Program for eight synagogues and temples located within the 5th District, along with another church, a school, a senior care facility, and two local nonprofits.
The $1.2 million in new funding was announced by U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer on Wednesday, and brings the total allocated to the district to $4.1 million since 2016.
"In one incident after another, the very safety and security of our communities hangs in the balance right now, which is why these investments clawed back through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program are so important," Gottheimer said.
Jared Maples, director of the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, was also present for Wednesday's call, and said grants like those in the NSGP help communities of faith develop an overall awareness of what the threats against them may be, and how they can be cut off.
The larger purpose is to empower communities to learn what they can do to wipe out hate entirely, even if that may seem a daunting task.
"The fact is, there are threats out there, and we want to make sure we're available to present those threats to you, and then overcome those threats by grants and these other resources," Maples said. "Our goal is to make sure something doesn't happen, but when God forbid it does, like a Jersey City or something else, we want to be able to not only prepare and try to stop it, but then also be prepared and be resilient from it."
New Jersey is not alone in increased instances of hate crimes and other attacks against religious organizations, Gottheimer said, citing FBI data that indicates a five-year upward trend in such incidents, including the highest numbers of those incidents ever recorded in New Jersey in 2019.
It is why he said he has been pushing for a 50% increase in previous funding levels for local houses of worship.
"We've seen an uptick in violence and hate in recent years, and let me be clear to those who peddle in it: Hate is not, and will never be, welcome here in New Jersey," Gottheimer said.
Several of the organizations included in this latest traunch, according to Gottheimer, received the maximum $100,000 payout available.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email email@example.com.