With increasing violence against minorities and religious groups, Mass Senate votes to increase security funding for places of worship and nonprofits
Massachusetts state senators — some wearing orange ribbons to show support for gun safety in the wake of the Texas elementary school shooting — voted unanimously on Wednesday for a budget amendment to to double security funding for places of worship and other non-profit organizations at increased risk of hate crimes or terrorist attacks.
Sen. Eric Lesser, a Democrat from Longmeadow, launched a litany of anti-Semitic attacks around Springfield and the Commonwealth as he urged his colleagues to approve $3 million for the nonprofit security grant program. Funding can be used for security and infrastructure “upgrades”, such as barricades outside synagogues or bulletproof windows.
“We also need to recognize an urgent reality: our black communities, our Jewish communities, our Asian communities, our trans communities are facing an escalation of targeted attacks and threats of violence – and actual violence – on an almost daily basis.” , Lesser, who is Jewish, told the Senate on Wednesday afternoon. Budget deliberations are expected to continue through Thursday, before House and Senate members must reconcile the various funding allocations in their respective bills.
“Make no mistake about it: these incidents, these crimes, this violence that is targeted against minority populations across our state is meant to intimidate, is meant to shut down, is meant to exclude entire groups and categories of people…” Lesser, a candidate for lieutenant governor, sued. “We have an obligation to make sure that any synagogue, any church, any mosque, any LGBTQ resource center, any organization that tells us they don’t feel safe and need these improvements, we we have an obligation to make sure we do what we need to do to make them feel safe.
Lesser emphasized that funding must be distributed throughout Massachusetts to ensure geographic equity.
Following a roll-call vote, the Council on Jewish Community Relations of Greater Boston on Twitter thanked the senators for their “unwavering support” during the adoption of the budget amendment.
Jewish senators cited personal experiences of anti-Semitism or increased security at synagogues, pointing to the urgent need for increased funding.
A bomb threat Tuesday at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston in Newton came the same day as the carnage in Texas, Senate Majority Leader Cindy Creem pointed out. Creem recalled how she once forgot a security card to enter her own synagogue, which meant she was unable to say the prayer she needed with her congregants.
“I know in all hearts we feel the same,” Creem said of his Senate colleagues. “We are scared, we feel upset and we want to do everything we can to protect our people.”
Senator Becca Rausch said it was always strange to see a heavy security presence outside her synagogue. But for her young children, that’s the norm they grew up with — needing a security card to enter the building, after seeing a police cruiser parked in the driveway, Rausch said.
Rausch, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, also lamented the “many, multiple instances of swastikas” in schools or on pavements in her district of Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex.
“I have certainly, and I think many of you have also, seen countless instances of hate online – and that, no doubt, includes drastic and chilling anti-Semitism,” Rausch said. “A significant part of what I saw and what my staff had to deal with concerned me. I am the first Jew to represent my district in this body. It’s very real.