JCRC applauds the Massachusetts State Senate for approving a $75,000 pilot program for physical security enhancements and target hardening at nonprofit and religious institutions throughout the Commonwealth determined to be at high risk for terrorist attack.
This initiative is modeled after the federal Non Profit Security Grant program, which is currently limited to nine municipalities in the Boston area, and fills the gap by providing opportunities for vulnerable institutions throughout the Commonwealth which are geographically excluded from that federal program.
“Over the last year, we have all witnessed an increase in hate crimes and threats directed towards the Jewish community and other populations throughout the entirety of the Commonwealth” said Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “We are grateful to Representative Lori Ehrlich for championing this in the House and to Senator Chandler and her colleagues in the Senate for recognizing that terror knows no borders and for taking this first step to ensure that people in Newton, Worcester, Springfield and beyond have the opportunity resources to keep their vulnerable populations feeling secure.”
This new program, sponsored by Senator Harriette Chandler and supported by Senator Michael Moore, Senator Eric Lesser and Senator Cynthia Creem would mirror the federal program, but is open to the communities excluded based upon their geography. Following the federal program, institutions would be responsible for the cost of their risk assessments. After completing the risk assessment, they would apply to the grant program and be ranked based on their likelihood of risk and current vulnerability. The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security would then be tasked with determining which institutions are most in need of the funds and would award the grants.
“Sadly, we are seeing a wave of intolerance and threats in Massachusetts against ethnic and religious minority groups,” said MA Senate Majority Leader Harriette L. Chandler. “We’ve seen threats against our mosques and against immigrants, even community organizations that serve vulnerable populations. I believe this funding is critical to ensure that our communities remain a welcoming and safe place for all of our residents.”
“No child should have to fear going to school or going to pray at a place of worship. While it is my sincere hope — and my belief — that our American values and the human values of tolerance and respect and dignity for every human being will win out in the end, we must take steps to protect our vulnerable and targeted populations,” said Senator Eric Lesser.
“We must not let terror and hate interfere with our liberties and free exercise of religion,” said Senator Creem. “I am pleased the State Senate is funding prudent action to protect our institutions from those who intend to do harm.”
The initiative, included in the State Senate’s budget proposal will become part of the debate as leaders from the House of Representatives and State Senate negotiate the final budget for the Governor’s approval.