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US law enforcement aims to reassure Jewish community after hostage taking

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US law enforcement aims to reassure Jewish community after hostage taking

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“It was absolute acknowledgment that this was a violent attack on the Jewish community,” said Nathan Diament, executive director of public policy at the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations in America, which hosted the meeting. ‘call.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and White House officials made very clear and declarative statements that “they understand it was anti-Semitic, they understand the Jews were being targeted, they consider this as an act of terror…no ifs”. , and or but,” Diament said.

The call follows a warning from the FBI and DHS Monday that faith communities will likely remain targets of violence, which urged state and local partners to assess their security postures for mass gatherings and at venues of worship.

“Faith communities have and will likely continue to be the target of violence from domestic violent extremists and those inspired by foreign terrorists,” said the letter from FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate and John D. Cohen, senior intelligence official at DHS. .

At Tuesday’s meeting, which came days after the Colleyville, Texas hostage-taking at Congregation Beth Israel, FBI and DHS leaders also stressed that the security of synagogues across the United States would benefit from more “two-way communication”.

For example, FBI Director Christopher Wray encouraged synagogues to establish direct lines of communication with their local FBI offices, if they do not already have them.

Officials told the group the investigation in Texas was ongoing and they were looking into the suspect’s potential ties to people.

One attendee asked how the suspect was able to get on a plane, travel to Texas and buy guns, seemingly without hindrance. Appeal officials did not provide details, but acknowledged they were reviewing procedures.

The Orthodox Union is the largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization in the country, representing nearly 1,000 synagogues. There were 1,200 to 1,500 representatives on the conference call, Diament said.

Synagogue security is a “major issue” for the group, he said, adding that “events in Texas require all of us to reach out, speak to our congregations, recheck security protocols and trying to identify more resources, unfortunately, for more security measures.”

“Anyone who goes to a synagogue, whether it’s once a week on Shabbat or every day, or whatever, everyone, including me, thinks it might as well have been my synagogue. , is not it ?” he said.

On the call, DHS discussed the department’s efforts to secure federal funding for faith-based organizations to improve safety.

The nonprofit security grant program has been “tremendously helpful,” Diament said, noting that proper security measures are very expensive.

However, the grant program is currently funded at $180 million per year, with a goal of reaching $360 million per year, Diament said.

Earlier this week, Mayorkas called for increased funding, saying that while the $180 million was double the amount from the previous year, it was “not enough to meet demand”. DHS will work with Congress to increase funding for the grant program so faith communities have the tools they need to improve safety and protect against terrorism, hate crimes and targeted violence, Mayorkas tweeted.

US law enforcement aims to reassure Jewish community after hostage taking

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