BOSTON — Synagogues and other faith organizations are getting federal funds to harden their infrastructure and security to thwart terrorist and hate attacks.
The state Executive Office Of Public Safety and Security has doled out more than $2.9 million in Nonprofit Security Grant Program grants to more than 30 Jewish nonprofits and houses of worship as part of the latest round of funding, announced on Thursday.
The grants can reimburse nonprofits for the costs of metal detectors and surveillance cameras; adding more lighting, fencing or locks; and other security upgrades. The funds were provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Gov. Charlie Baker said the money will help fortify places of worship that are increasingly targeted.
“It’s important for residents have the opportunity to gather and commune without fear, and these grants will go a long way to providing safety and security for these important spaces,” Baker said in a statement.
Many of the grants exceed $100,000 per organization, which is a substantial increase over previous rounds of disbursements.
Locally, the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore is getting a $138,700 grant to improve security at its recreational complex in Marblehead.
The money for security upgrades follows a surge of high-profile attacks on the Jewish community, including the July attack of a rabbi in Brighton who was stabbed repeatedly. Prosecutors say the suspect had a hatred of Jews.
The rise in attacks has raised security concerns among religious leaders, including locally, where state leaders and civil rights groups have noted a surge in reports of bias and hate crimes.
“We’ve had a number of incidents right here in Massachusetts that demonstrate the need for this kind of support for institutions,” said Robert Trestan, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League of New England.
There were more than 421 incidents in Massachusetts between 2020 and 2021, with 340 of them tied to white supremacy, and 90 anti-Semitic incidents, according to the ADL.
The Nonprofit Security Grant Program was set up several years ago to help nonprofits that don’t qualify for federal funding.
The competitive grant program allows synagogues, churches, mosques and other houses of worship, along with other nonprofits, to apply for grants of up to $150,000. The money cannot be used for major construction projects or purchasing weapons. Applicants must demonstrate a need to update security.
The Department of Homeland Security already issues grants of up to $100,000 to houses of worship, day schools and nonprofits in major United States cities.
The Baker administration has responded to the growing demand for the grants by pumping more money into the program. The latest disbursement includes a mix of federal and state funds.
In 2019, Jewish community leaders wrote to Baker asking for increased funding for the state’s grant program. They pointed out that other states, such as New York, spend several times more than Massachusetts on similar initiatives.
Trestan said the increased funding shows the Baker administration and lawmakers “recognize the importance of keeping people safe in houses of worship.”
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at email@example.com.