PIKESVILLE, Md. (CNS) — U.S. Sens. Benjamin Cardin and Christopher Van Hollen, both Maryland Democrats, joined Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and other local faith leaders to call for increased federal funding to strengthen security at religious sites amid a recent rise in anti-Semitic attacks.
“We are deeply disturbed by the recent apparent rise in anti-Semitism, in particular, the violent attacks that took place last year during the Hanukkah celebration in New York and on the kosher market in Jersey City,” Archbishop Lori said at Jan. 13 news conference outside the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in Pikesville.
“I commend our Senate leaders for calling us together today to condemn these acts, but also to take concrete and necessary measures to do everything we can to protect the rights of all people,” he said.
The senators are proposing to quadruple funding in next year’s federal budget for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides assistance to religious and other nonprofit institutions that are potential targets for terrorist attacks. They were joined by Rep. John Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat.
Stressing the need for the increase, Van Hollen said the FBI has reported anti-Semitic attacks rose 35% between 2014 and 2018. Speakers also cited attacks on mosques and Christian churches, including recent mass shootings in Texas.
If the proposal is successful, the program would provide an additional $360 million in security assistance each year.
“Religious institutions are targets. Europe’s known this for a long time and their governments have participated in making these facilities safe for people to be able to attend,” Cardin said. “We now recognize in the United States that we are similarly vulnerable with religious institutions being targets for terrorism.”
Howard Libit, president of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said the federal funds are greatly needed amid the threat posed by the rise in anti-Semitism. Libit said many members of Jewish congregations have had to give more to their synagogues to offset the increased security costs.
Rabbi Shmuel Silber of Suburban Orthodox Toras Chaim Congregation said he was saddened by the recent spate of anti-Semitic attacks, but he was hopeful in light of the support of the government and other faiths.
“We are emboldened and we will continue to shepherd our respective communities in our faith traditions and never bow to hate and bigotry,” Silber said.
Last year, Maryland institutions received more than $3 million under the program. The fund supported Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Suburban Orthodox Toras Chaim, the Islamic Society of Annapolis and St. John Regional Catholic School in Frederick.
Sheila Evers, director of advancement for St. John Regional, said the school received $100,000 to upgrade its security, including adding magnetic locks, new lighting and a perimeter fence. Evers said the funds helped implement the recommendations of threat assessment conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and the Frederick Police Department.
Both Cardin and Van Hollen praised Archbishop Lori’s efforts at forging stronger bonds among the interfaith community in recent years.
“He’s been an incredible leader on bringing us all together, all the faith communities together,” Cardin said.
Archbishop Lori said he would work with his colleagues at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to ensure that the bipartisan grant program, which began in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, continues to grow.
“The concrete steps we support here are vitally important, but we also continue to put our faith in the simple act of coming together, standing side by side, to demonstrate that love will always be a greater power than evil,” Archbishop Lori said.
Swift is the social media coordinator for the Catholic Review and the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The Review is the news outlet of the archdiocese.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: Former cardinal moves from Kansas friary to new location
NEXT: Love of baking and prayer make religious brother a winner
Share this story