Security in houses of worship was in the spotlight in Washington, DC. It was a joint subcommittee hearing, with members of the Intelligence and Counterterrorism Committee, and Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Committee.
“In 2020 the most recent year that the FBI has published data, Jewish Americans were the target of nearly 60% of all religiously motivated hate crimes, despite accounting for less than 2% of the total U.S. population,” said Rep. Austin Pfluger (R-Odessa) who is on the Intelligence and Counterterrorism Committee.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, from Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, was one of the witnesses.
“I am grateful to be here. To be honest, I am grateful to be anywhere,” said Cytron-Walker.
Cytron-Walker was one of four held hostage inside a Colleyville temple for 11 hours, eventually throwing a chair at the hostage-taker, allowing everyone to get out. He credits training and security that began six years ago with law enforcement and other organizations, and security upgrades at the temple.
“Those sessions helped me to stay alert, look for an opportunity, and gave me the courage to act when I needed to,” said Cytron-Walker.
Cytron-Walker and the other witnesses are encouraging Congress to increase the money available for grants for houses of worship, to bolster security.
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“Every congregation needs to be prepared, yet the gap between the need and funding is profound,” Cytron-Walker added.
According to our news partners at The Dallas Morning News, Congress has provided $180 million for the non-profit security grant program. It was increased by $100 million by the U.S. House as part of the Build Back Better Plan, which hasn't passed.
“With the risk of attacks against faith-based communities we must continue to invest in their security,” said Rep. Val Demmings (D-Florida).