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Jewish organizations need more funding to prevent hate crimes, says community leader

Texas Synagogue Holds Healing Service After Recent Hostage Situation At Synagogue
Emil Lippe
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Getty Images North America
A message offers support at Pleasant Run Baptist Church on January 17, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas. A 44-year-old British national over the weekend stormed into the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville with a gun and held four people hostage for more than 10 hours.

After a gunman held four hostages at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, Jewish organizations in Connecticut are grappling with their own security concerns. Although Jewish Americans make up only 2% of the population, the Anti-Defamation League and Federal Bureau of Investigation report they are the targets of 60% of religious-motivated hate crimes in the U.S.

“We live every single day not asking if something horrible like this would happen, but ‘When will it happen?’” said Judy Alperin, CEO of the Jewish Federation Foundation of Greater New Haven.

The Texas incident is just the latest in what Alperin calls a “climate of hate”. One of her own facilities, the Jewish Community Center in Woodbridge, received a bomb threat last year.

Alperin said one of the foundation's main safety challenges is getting funding for security measures, including employee training, cameras, security systems, and physical barriers.

“We’re working hard to keep everyone as safe as possible. I don’t want fear to prevent people from continuing to live proud Jewish lives,” Alperin said.

While there is grant money available from both the state and federal governments, Alperin said it’s a “very difficult, complicated” process and they did not qualify last year. In the meantime, she does not want to spend excessively on security because she would rather put that money toward programs that will serve the community. Instead, she partnered with other organizations to hire a shared security consultant.

Tuesday, State Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor) and State Senator Derek Slap (D-West Hartford) issued a joint statement calling for swift approval of funding for non-profit security.

“Training and protections are necessary in all houses of worship today, unfortunately. That's why, in Connecticut, we have worked with our fellow legislators in efforts to support places of worship, providing security resources they can use to help keep their worshipers safe,” Senators Anwar and Slap wrote. “As we go forward, it’s critically important that this program continues, the second round of security grants for houses of worship moves ahead as swiftly as possible and we maintain support in future bonding agendas."

In the meantime, Alperin said much of the burden of keeping those facilities safe falls on employees to spot potential threats, which the foundation helps with by providing active shooter training.

The Jewish Federation Foundation of Greater New Haven has around fifty trainings planned for this year alone.