Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Montgomery County Council President Gabe Albornoz announced on Thursday $700,000 in community service grants to assist in protecting houses of worship and nonprofit organizations.
This announcement came less than two weeks after a gunman took four people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. It also came on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“Freedom of assembly is a sacred constitutional right, and it should be free from the fear of violence,” Elrich said.
The funding is administered by the County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security to nonprofit organizations for those needs. Montgomery County is the only jurisdiction in Maryland that funds grants toward faith based and nonprofit organizations from county coffers to help them offset security costs.
Montgomery County Councilmember Sidney Katz said these funds are in addition to the $700,000 that were already allocated by the council last year.
About one-third of residents in Montgomery County were born in countries other than the United States.
Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said while Jews constitute about 2 percent of the U.S. population, about 60 percent of religious-based hate crimes target Jewish institutions and people. He also noted the increase in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans, Muslim Americans, African Americans and other groups in the last several years.
“We in the Jewish community will not live in fear, nor will we cower,” Halber said. “We will not permit this unprecedented wave of violence to deter us from observing our faith publicly with pride. And we will stand together with our fellow Americans of all backgrounds, as we have always done, should they find themselves victims of senseless hatred.”