CQ News: Frelinghuysen Urges FEMA to Assist Jewish Community

By: Kellie Mejdrich

Amid threats to Jewish institutions nationwide, House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen urged Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly to release Federal Emergency Management Agency grant funds to help at-risk organizations.

In a letter publicized Friday, the New Jersey Republican told Kelly that FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Assistance grant program could provide funds that support “target hardening and other physical security enhancements to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attack.”

Specifically, he urged Kelly to issue what’s called a notice of funding opportunity for the grant program to begin the process of distributing assistance to Jewish community centers, synagogues, and other nonprofit centers across the country that have been threatened by violence.

Frelinghuysen pointed to recent statistics compiled by the Jewish Community Center Association of North America that show there have been more than 100 threats in 33 states, with 31 on Monday alone. The FBI announced Friday the arrest of a suspect in some of the threats.

The New York Times also reported Friday that federal authorities charged a St. Louis man, Juan Thompson, with making bomb threats against Jewish schools, community centers and a Jewish museum. Hate crimes against the Jewish community have made headlines recently including incidents at two Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia in late February where headstones were broken and overturned.

Frelinghuysen said DHS had not issued the grant notice despite “sufficient authority” to do so in the fiscal 2017 continuing resolution that keeps the government funded through April 28 (PL 114-254).

“Based on these rising threats of violence targeted at Jewish Community Centers and institutions, I urge you to expeditiously proceed” with the grant notice, Frelinghuysen said in the letter, adding the monies would “provide much-needed funds to respond to this disturbing trend.”

Kelly announced Thursday that DHS had, in response to recent threats, heightened its outreach and support efforts to the community. Kelly said in a Thursday statement that the agency’s National Protection and Programs Directorate spoke with the executive directors of the Jewish Community Center Association of North America.

Kelly added DHS offered support from so-called Protective Security Advisors, DHS-associated individuals in all 50 states who serve as liaisons with the community, to help with “training, protective measures, exercises, and information sharing.” But Frelinghuysen said while Thursday’s announcement was appreciated, it wasn’t enough.

“DHS must take additional steps to further strengthen these efforts,” Frelinghuysen said.

FEMA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.