Synagogues, Jewish schools and other Jewish facilities are among the nonprofit organizations that may apply to receive funding from Montgomery County if they are considered at risk for hate crimes and attacks.
County Executive Marc Elrich said that the county has earmarked $700,000 for nonprofit security grants. The funding may be used to maintain or expand physical security personnel, provide enhanced security training, pay for a security assessment and plan and cover other recurring operating costs, according to Elrich, who made the announcement last month. The funds will be distributed by the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
Notably, applicants cannot use the funds to cover the cost of equipment — such as cameras, improved locking mechanisms and shatterproof glass. Grants will apply to recurring costs, such as salaried security positions.
“There are other grants out there that provide funding for minority community security, however they are primarily concerned with capital expenditures, not recurring costs such as salaried security positions,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, which supports the move. “[Recurring costs] are bleeding our communities.”
“There is no substitute for human eyes and intuition on the ground — you cannot replace the human element with [technology],” Halber said.
As a result of the county grants, members of the Jewish community may notice an increase in security personnel at their schools, synagogues and JCCs.
“This is not just about improving security at big events — Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, ” he said. “This will mean that pickups and dropoffs at school will be better guarded, Shabbat services may be better staffed.”
Halber said he hopes other groups will also take advantage of the funding, “I hope Asian American, Muslim, Latino and other communities all apply and receive [funding].” By Halber’s count, there are more than 50 Jewish institutions in Montgomery County. While each organization can apply for up to $20,000, Halber said he hopes that the $700,000 will be increased to $2.5 million in the coming years in order to sufficiently fund security for all minority institutions in the county.
These grants are distinct from the $3.4 million in federal funds that were awarded to Jewish organizations in August, though they have similar objectives. In 2020, the FBI recorded 7,759 hate crimes, with anti-Jewish crimes making up around 11 percent of those reported, more than half of the total hate crimes motivated by religious prejudice. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also expected to administer at least an additional $180 million as part of the Nonprofit Security Grants Program in 2022.
“These grants will provide nonprofit organizations with additional resources to enhance the security of their facilities and the safety of our residents,” Elrich said in a statement. “This investment is an affirmation of Montgomery County’s support for our neighbors of every religion, race and ethnicity. We are committed to protect the rights of everyone who lives or visits our County and I encourage all applicable Montgomery County organizers to apply for these grants.”
Applicants can file to receive grants until Oct. 22, and awardees are expected to be notified in early December.