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Cammack & Pfluger Opening Statements In Nonprofit Security Grants Hearing

February 8, 2022

Cammack & Pfluger Opening Statements In Nonprofit Security Grants Hearing

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL), Ranking Member of the Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Subcommittee, and Rep. August Pfluger (R-TX), Ranking Member of the Intelligence and Counterterrorism Subcommittee, delivered the following opening statements in a joint subcommittee hearing entitled, “The Nonprofit Security Grant Program and Protecting Houses of Worship: A View from the American Jewish Community.”

Ranking Member Cammack’s Opening Statement (as prepared for delivery)

Before I begin, I would first like to take a moment to recognize Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, whose quick thinking and use of his security training helped save lives. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences here with us today.

I would also like to recognize the dedicated Federal, State, and local law enforcement officers who answered the call that day. Our first responders put their lives on the line every day and we thank them for helping to keep our communities safe.

Chairwoman Demings and Chairwoman Slotkin, I would like to thank you both for convening this hearing today to discuss FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program and the critical role this program plays in protecting houses of worship.

The event that took place at the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue is unfortunately just the latest in a string of anti-Semitic attacks that have plagued Jewish communities both at home and abroad in recent years.

In 2017, a retired French doctor was killed in her Paris apartment by an attacker motivated by anti-Semitism. The following year, and much closer to home, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, killing 11 congregants. And in December 2019, a Jewish kosher deli was attacked in Jersey City, New Jersey, leaving four victims dead.

While faith-based communities across the country face varying levels of discrimination, the American Jewish community continues to face a persistent threat of violence. This is a threat that has been shown to come from a variety of ideological motivations.

According to the FBI’s hate crime statistics, in 2020, there were 1,174 victims who were targeted due to their religion. Of those victims, the Jewish community accounted for 54.9% of all religious bias crimes.

These reported anti-Semitic incidents occurred at Jewish institutions such as synagogues, Jewish community centers, and Jewish schools. The reported incidents included harassment, vandalism, and assault.

While the continued prevalence of these attacks can sometimes seem overwhelming, as Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker showed us, the proper use of security training and resources can help save lives.

One of the most important resources available to houses of worship is FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). This competitive grant program provides funding support for target hardening and other security-related activities to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack.

Specifically, the NSGP seeks to integrate the preparedness activities of these nonprofit organizations with broader state, local, tribal, and territorial preparedness efforts.

The vital nature of this program is highlighted by the fact that in Fiscal Year 2021, more than 3,300 nonprofit organizations submitted applications to the program. Almost 40% of the nonprofits that applied had never before received NSGP funding.

However, due to the widespread demand for this program, less than half of the nonprofits that applied ended up received funding.

As lead Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery, I remain committed to working with Chairwoman Demings to help strengthen our nation’s overall emergency preparedness posture by supporting programs like the Nonprofit Security Grant Program.

I also remain committed to working to combat anti-Semitism and violence against all religious groups. Freedom of religion is a cornerstone of our Constitution, and any violation of this freedom should not be tolerated. For this reason, I cosponsored a bipartisan resolution condemning the recent antisemitic terrorist act on the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue.

In closing, I am incredibly proud to represent Florida’s Third, a district that has such a vibrant faith community. In fact, my district includes the University of Florida, which is home to the largest Jewish student organization in the country, Gators for Israel.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on the importance of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, the ways in which they’ve used this grant program to protect their faith communities, and any recommendations they have to improve the grant program going forward.

Thank you and I yield back.

Ranking Member Pfluger’s Opening Statement (as prepared for delivery)

Thank you, Chairwoman Slotkin and Chairwoman Demings, for holding this important joint subcommittee hearing today, and thank you to our witnesses for joining us to discuss an issue that threatens the safety and security of Americans across the country and is pervasive throughout the world.

The Jewish community is targeted more often than any other religious group in the United States. Since the FBI started collecting crime data in the 1990s, the number of hate crimes against the Jewish community has ranged from 600 to 1,200 incidents every year.[1] And, since the FBI’s data is based on voluntary reporting by local law enforcement, these statistics are frequently either underreported or not reported at all. In 2020, the most recent year the FBI has published data on, Jewish Americans were the target of nearly 60% of the religiously motivated hate crimes, despite accounting for less than 2% of the U.S. population.[2] I am very interested in getting a better understanding of the threat Jewish Americans face every day and how Federal and local law enforcement can work to better protect them, as well as other at-risk religious groups.

I am especially grateful to have Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker as a witness today. Barely a month ago, British citizen Malik Faisal Akram took the Rabbi, along with three other members of Congregation Beth Israel, hostage during their Saturday service in Colleyville, Texas. Akram’s goal was to secure the release of Aafia Siddiqui (AH-PHIA SA-DEE-KEE), a Pakistani terrorist serving an 86-year sentence in a Fort Worth prison for the attempted murder of U.S. officers in Afghanistan. In the face of danger, Rabbi Cytron-Walker waited for an opportune moment and acted. We are incredibly thankful, Rabbi, for your quick thinking and heroic actions that day, leading to the safe escape of you and your congregants.

We owe it to all houses of worship in America, and especially to our synagogues, to bolster their safety and security from all religiously motivated hate crimes and threats of terrorism. At the Federal level, we must make improvements to our information sharing agreements with our Visa Waiver Program partner countries to ensure that others like Akram with violent criminal histories are known to DHS and their agency partners before they are allowed to move freely about the United States. We must also ensure communication and information sharing between Federal and local law enforcement to guarantee responsiveness and prevention capabilities for situations like Colleyville. And, what brings us here today, we must continue our support of faith-based communities through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program.

I am very interested to hear from our witnesses today as to how they are working to protect Jewish synagogues, schools, and recreational facilities around the country. I would like to learn more about the threat Jewish Americans face, partnerships they have with law enforcement, their reporting capabilities to threats of violence as well as attacks, and how Congress can help improve the current security measures they have in place. Protecting our houses of worship is essential to the safety and security of all Americans. An attack on the Jewish members of our communities is an attack on the very pillars of religious freedom our country was founded upon. Thank you again to all our witnesses for joining us today, and I look forward to a robust conversation.