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CT approves extra $5 million for security at places of worship

Friday's allocation is the third batch of nonprofit security money. Since 2021, Gov. Lamont's office said $10 million has already gone out to 129 houses of worship.

John Craven

Dec 15, 2023, 10:48 PM

Updated 216 days ago

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Amid a major spike in threats and hate speech, the State Bond Commission approved an additional $5 million for security upgrades at houses of worship on Friday.
"WE'RE AFRAID"
The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, but tensions are at a boiling point over the Israel-Hamas war. Last weekend, a protester climbed up a menorah on the New Haven Green, hanging a Palestinian flag from it.
"The Jewish community – while we're strong, we're afraid," said Gayle Slossberg, CEO of the Greater New Haven Jewish Federation.
The Islamic community is experiencing violence too, including the murder of a 6-year-old boy outside Chicago in October.
"We're hearing from Muslims who are being harassed at both their place of work and at schools for speaking out against the treatment of Palestinians," Farhan Memon, chair of the Connecticut Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said on Oct. 27. "The one-sided rhetoric about Israel in the media and by our politicians that fails to recognize the humanity of Palestinians exacerbates the situation."
SECURITY UPGRADES
At the Stamford Chabad, an armed guard now greets visitors.
"Our security posture is at its highest level," Rabbi Moshe Shemtov said.
Now, more help is on the way.
Friday morning, the State Bond Commission released an extra $5 million for the Connecticut Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Religious groups can apply for up to $50,000 per facility for things like security cameras, fencing, remote locks and even bullet-proof glass.
"These should be safe places, where people feel safe and are safe," said Gov. Ned Lamont. "And we're doing everything we can to make that real."
For the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, the effort started five years ago after the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.
"Working with these houses of worship to assess what their security needs are," said David Waren, the group's president and CEO. "Helping identify where there are vulnerabilities. We're also doing training."
That training includes how to ask specific questions if a threat is called in.
MORE DEMAND THAN MONEY
Friday's allocation is the third batch of nonprofit security money. Since 2021, Lamont's office said $10 million has already gone out to 129 houses of worship. But the demand is so great, that half of applicants were turned away.
"These funds are for organizations that are deemed at a heightened risk of either a hate crime or a domestic terrorist incident," said state Sen. Derek Slap (D-West Hartford).
The state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection approves applications, a process than can take several months to verify the organization's needs and threat level.
Religious groups can also apply for up to $450,000 through the Federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program.
OTHER PROJECTS
The Bond Commission approved several other projects too.
Stamford is getting $3 million for safety improvements on streets. School districts across the state will get $6 million to add electric school buses. That money will be matched with even more federal dollars. Schools are also getting an extra $150 million for new heating and air conditioning upgrades.


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