Rabbi Jason Rodich at the entrance to Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, which has long used metal detectors and unarmed guards to screen people coming into the building. (Photo/Sue Barnett)
Rabbi Jason Rodich stands outside the entrance to Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco as an unarmed guard to screens people coming into the building, July 2019. (Photo/Sue Barnett)

State bill will extend security grants program ‘indefinitely’

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A bill to extend the California Nonprofit Security Grant Program permanently — and more than double the maximum amount that nonprofits, including synagogues, can apply for — has passed the Legislature and now awaits action from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Introduced by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, a Democrat who represents a good chunk of the San Fernando Valley and chairs the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, AB-1664 sailed unanimously through both the Senate and the Assembly in votes on Aug. 23 and 24.

David Bocarsly
David Bocarsly

The bill was co-sponsored by the Jewish Public Affairs Committee, which lobbied for $80 million for the program that allows organizations to bolster their security features. There is a serious need for the funding among California organizations, JPAC executive director David Bocarsly said.

“The reason it was important for us to establish the program in the first place [in 2019] was to clearly demonstrate that the State of California is invested in [the NSGP] and supporting the safety of all vulnerable institutions in California,” Bocarsly said.

If signed by Newsom before a Sept. 30 deadline, the bill would raise the limit on funds an organization can apply for to $500,000, from $200,000. It would also add security training as an eligible security measure for funding under the program, and would limit the amount an awardee can use on “construction and renovation” to $100,000.

We need more than thoughts and prayers to keep us safe.

The NSGP was established by a bill co-sponsored by Gabriel and other members of the Jewish caucus in the wake of a fatal shooting at Chabad of Poway in San Diego County. A previous version of the program had existed through the federal government, but it supplied applicants across California with only $4.5 million between 2015 and 2019.

The NSGP was passed to “improve the physical security of nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of violent attacks or hate crimes due to ideology, beliefs or mission,” the 2019 bill said. In addition to capping grants at $200,000 per institution, it also set the program to be automatically repealed in 2025.

The new bill will “delete” the repeal date, the text of the measure says, “thereby extending the operation of the [state NSGP] indefinitely.”

Jesse Gabriel
Jesse Gabriel

In the 2019-20 budget, $15 million was earmarked for grantees, and Bay Area Jewish organizations that applied received some $4.2 million. No additional funding was set aside in 2020, the result of a state deficit. Both 2021 and 2022 budget sessions saw $50 million allocated to the NSGP.

Gabriel’s current bill, co-authored by the Jewish caucus, comes after a hostage situation at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, saw three congregants and a rabbi held at gunpoint for 12 hours in January. It also follows a significant rise in antisemitic hate crimes in the United States last year.

“In a world where hate crimes and antisemitism are on the rise, we need more than thoughts and prayers to keep us safe,” Gabriel said in a press release, noting that the measure, if signed into law, will provide critical resources to institutions within communities that are at risk for hate-motivated violence.

Lillian Ilsley-Greene
Lillian Ilsley-Greene

Lillian Ilsley-Greene was a staff writer at J. from 2022-2023.