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Oct. 31—Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand is calling for more resources and government attention for the security of Jewish people in America, as community centers and organizations face increased threats of violence.
A number of high-profile incidents involving threats or actual violence against Jewish people have been reported in recent weeks, since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, which runs the Palestinian enclave of Gaza. In the last few days in New York, violent threats were made against the Jewish student center at Cornell University in Ithaca, and headstones in Watertown's Jewish cemetery were overturned in what local Jewish community leaders said was likely antisemitic vandalism.
In a press conference Tuesday, Gillibrand called for the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to pay special attention to Jewish community centers, schools and synagogues, requested additional funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program and reiterated her support for legislation aimed at better understanding hate crimes and how to prevent them.
"We've seen a disturbing rise in virulent antisemitism and hate crimes against the Jewish community around the world, across the country and right here in New York," Gillibrand said. "The incidents are sickening, and they are unacceptable. I am doing everything in my power to protect at-risk communities, including ensuring that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security are on high alert and in close communication with local law enforcement."
Since the start of the war, Gillibrand has stressed that no violence or hate can be tolerated, not against Jewish, Muslim or Palestinian people. Attacks against Jewish people, whether individually or in groups, have increased by 388%, according to the New York-based Anti-Defamation League, which advocates for the international Jewish diaspora and against anti-Jewish extremism.
Gillibrand has advocated for more funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides funding to support security measures at nonprofits including religious community centers, religious temples and some college campus faith centers. She lauded the Biden administration for including a $200 million ask for the NGSP in its most recent budget request.
She also has supported, and started a public campaign for the Hate Crimes Commission Act, a bill she authored that would establish a bipartisan congressional commission to study hate crimes and recommend actions for law enforcement to collect crime data. She has also co-sponsored the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which would set up a task force among the federal law enforcement agencies dedicated to tracking and responding to domestic terror threats.
"Every American has the right to live and worship freely and without fear," Gillibrand said. "I am committed to making sure they can."