JFNA Head Advocates for Security


Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, testified to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Aug. 3 as part of a hearing on the prevalence of “racially, ethnically, religiously and politically motivated” terrorist and extremist attacks.

Eric Fingerhut, president of the Jewish Federations of North America | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Fingerhut’s testimony primarily focused on the demand to increase the budget of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides funds to organizations looking to enhance security measures for communities often targeted by violent extremism or domestic terrorism.

“Security has always been a core concern of Jewish Federations,” Fingerhut said. “We know that the ability and the confidence of our community to participate fully in Jewish religious and cultural life depends on feeling safe.”

Spurred by 9/11 and created in 2004 through the Department of Homeland Security, NSGP funds between 140 and 1,500 organizations, with annual expenditures of $35 million, small by federal standards, according to Fingerhut. Though this year’s budget ballooned to $180 million, the program still couldn’t accommodate many applicants.

Jewish organizations are the primary grant recipients, with $115 million out of this year’s $180 million allocated to Jewish organizations nationally.

Since the program’s inception, organizations in the Philadelphia area have received more than $2 million in grants, according to Robin Schatz, director of Govenment Affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation. This year, four Philadelphia organizations received grants totaling $413,389.

“It’s really been a boon to our area,” Schatz said.

Schatz secured two grants for the Jewish Federation in past years, and increased funding of the program would allow the organization to apply funds from future grants to expanding security measures elsewhere.

Generally, the allocations fund jobs for security guards, installation of security cameras and other security infrastructures.

According to Shira Goodman, regional director of Anti-
Defamation League Philadelphia, though 2020 saw a small dip in local antisemitism, Philadelphia, Montgomery and Delaware counties remain the state’s antisemitism hotbeds.

“We have seen people who are motivated by hate emboldened in recent years,” Goodman said. 

Along with the national grant program, Pennsylvania organizations can apply to a similar state-based grant program through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Because these programs fund primarily faith-based organizations, advocacy from the Jewish community to increase program funding is a way to stand in solidarity with other religious communities.

“It’s a good opportunity for us all to realize the things that unite us rather than divide us,” Goodman said. “It’s important both for official lobbyists, but also people on the ground who are working with those communities, to keep building those ties.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt was among the other faith-based leaders who testified on far-right extremism. Both Fingerhut and Greenblatt expressed their support for the Pray Safe Act, a bipartisan bill that would provide additional resources for faith-based organizations.

srogelberg@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0741


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