Washington, D.C.’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency announced on Oct. 29 nearly $1 million in grants to improve security at D.C. religious institutions.
The grants come as security concerns for local synagogues increase in the wake of the Oct. 27 mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
HSEMA selected nine D.C. faith institutions to receive the funding to improve security measures. Six of the nine institutions are Jewish organizations, three of which are synagogues: Adas Israel Congregation, the Georgetown Synagogue-Kesher Israel Congregation and Sixth & I Synagogue, Inc.
Though security grants for nonprofit organizations in the District are not new, and the recipient organizations applied in the summer of 2017, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) referenced the shooting in Pittsburgh in HSEMA’s announcement.
“On the heels of tragedy, we continue the work of building a more peaceful world — a world in which hatred and evil are erased and our country has common-sense gun control,” Bowser said in the news release. “Through grants like these, we can do more to ensure residents and visitors feel safe throughout the District — especially in our places of worship.”
HSEMA is also offering new emergency preparednessworkshops for local organizations in the face of increased threats to certain faith-based organizations, according to HSEMA Director Chris Rodriguez.
“We will empower and educate nonprofits about the importance of conducting physical threat assessments, encouraging personal preparedness to their communities, and developing robust applications to secure future funding,” Rodriguez said.
Bowser directed the Metropolitan Police Department to provide officers and increase security measures for synagogues following the shooting in Pittsburgh.
“As we learn more about this attack, we reiterate: ignorance and hate have no place in our society. An attack on one community is an attack on all of us and on the ideals we stand for and fight for every day,” Bowser said in an Oct. 27 news release.
Local Jewish organizations have also committed to ensuring synagogues have sufficient funding for appropriate security precautions. The Jewish Federation, a nonprofit organization, committed to donating at least $100,000 to a fund to improve security at local synagogues and Jewish organizations.
“Together, we can continue to ensure that our community is strong, vibrant, resilient, and safe, even and especially in the face of those who seek to tear us apart,” the Jewish Federation wrote on its website.
Local synagogues have said that, though shaken, they feel prepared to deal with the tragedy and ensure the safety of their congregants. Sixth & I Communications Senior Associate Michelle Eider said the synagogue is responding in kind to the recent tragedy.
“For many years, Sixth & I has taken extra security precautions at all of our programs and events,” Eidler wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We will continue to do so and are working with the Metropolitan Police Department and other local law enforcement to ensure that our security measures are appropriate.”
Executive Director of Temple Rodef Shalom Beth Silver said the temple has grown accustomed to a certain level of security threats.
“We’re just continuing what we’re doing and always reviewing our security,” Silver said in an interview with The Hoya.“We have a very close relationship with local law enforcement and they’ve been great to work with all along and especially helpful in the last week.”
Georgetown Jewish Student Association President Aviv Lis (COL ’19) said that, disappointing as it is to see synagogues taking such security precautions, such measures are important to ensure individuals can worship in safety.
“We are deeply saddened that the need for heightened security is a conversation each synagogue must have,” Lis said. “Every community should do what it feels I best to ensure the safety, security and comfort of its congregants.”