Maryland County to Fund Safety for Nonprofits at Risk of Hate Crimes



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WASHINGTON – Montgomery County in Maryland will provide $ 700,000 to meet the security needs of faith-based institutions, county director Marc Elrich said.

The new grants will be used for nonprofits and institutions that “have experienced, or are at high risk of, hate crimes.”

The county is home to a large Jewish community and, according to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC), there are more than 50 Jewish institutions in the county. “These grants are available to increase the costs of security personnel or other security planning measures for nonprofits located in Montgomery County,” the county said.

“Montgomery County is a community of diversity, inclusion and compassion – but we are not immune to hatred and vitriol that could turn criminal,” County Director Elrich said in a statement. “These grants will provide nonprofits with additional resources to improve the safety of their facilities and the safety of our residents. This investment is an affirmation of Montgomery County’s support for our neighbors of all religions, races and ethnicities. We are committed to protecting the rights of everyone who lives in or visits our county, and I encourage all concerned Montgomery County organizers to apply for these grants. “

“The idea to get local funding for security came from the JCRC,” said Ron Halber, JCRC Executive Director. He said the JCRC has pitched to the county executive the idea of ​​providing security funds to cover the operating costs of nonprofits that are at risk of hate crime or terrorism.

View north along Maryland State Route 186 (Brookville Road) between Shepherd Street and Turner Lane in Chevy Chase Section Three, Montgomery County, Maryland. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“And the reason we put the emphasis on operating costs is that the National Security Grants Program already exists, which is funded at $ 180 million, and Jewish synagogues, schools or agencies have [been eligible for its funds] for nearly two decades.

Federal grants are generally used for protective equipment such as security systems and cameras, said Halber, and Maryland offers two state grant programs: one for which Jewish institutions and other organizations to nonprofit can apply, and another for schools.

“So we were thinking strategically and we said, ‘Well, between the federal program and the two-state programs, what about the fact that the biggest ongoing cost of security is personnel? Halber said.

“Nothing can replace human instinct and have a pair of watchful eyes while others are either in an agency receiving services, worshipers praying, kids in school or whatever,” Halber said. “Having other people to watch is a very, very important thing. I have never done a cumulative study to find out how much money the Jewish community in Montgomery County spends per year to pay security guards, but there is no doubt that it runs into the millions. And so, we thought what can we do to help our institutions, which keep budgets tight to deliver the service they render – how can we help alleviate some of the funding for security? From the start, County Director Mark Elrich has been extraordinarily responsive.

He said that while Jews make up less than 2% of the population, more than 60% of hate crimes based on religion in the United States are currently committed against the Jewish community.

“This funding is not only available to the Jewish community,” said Halber. “It is accessible to any community that can argue that it is subject to sectarianism and therefore potentially to hate crimes or terrorism. So I expect the Muslim community to apply; I expect the Asian American community to apply, but we are the ones who approached the county executive and are working with their staff to develop the regulations for this program.

He noted that there are 54 Jewish buildings, including synagogues, schools and social service agencies, in Montgomery County. “If each of them asked for $ 20,000, they would already be over a million,” he said. “Of course, I don’t think all 54 will apply.”

Halber commended Montgomery County for providing the funds.

“Providing security to its citizens is the No.1 responsibility of any local government, and I think our government here has been very, very responsible in recognizing and understanding and appreciating what it is.”

It is not common for local counties to provide such funding to faith-based institutions, and Halber said he hoped the move would encourage other local governments across the country to follow suit.

“They can’t just rely on federal dollars to meet the security needs of the Jewish community and others,” Halber said. My ultimate goal is to expand this program beyond $ 700,000. I would like it to eventually be extended to $ 2 million or more. But certainly for now, we’re very, very grateful that the county executive has finished, and it’s going to help people a lot. Anti-Semitism may be on the rise, but I haven’t seen anything other than the resilience of American Jews who refuse to be afraid or not to show their identity with pride.

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