Shocked by Saturday's mass shooting at the Chabad of Poway, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed Monday to significantly increase funds for security at synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions in California that face threats of hate-motivated violence.
Newsom announced his support after the 14-member California Legislative Jewish Caucus made an urgent request for $15 million to be budgeted this year for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which only provided $500,000 last year.
The money would go to nonprofit organizations including religious congregations, private and nonprofit schools, LGBTQ organizations, and women’s health groups to pay for reinforced doors and gates, high intensity lighting and alarms, security guards and other protective measures.
The funding announcement came the same day that authorities revealed they staved off a terror plot targeting Jews, churches and police officers, but it was not immediately clear whether Newsom’s decision was influenced by that news. It also came before the Anti-Defamation League released a report Monday documenting that the number of Jewish people targeted in anti-Semitic assaults had tripled last year.
“We all must call out hate — against any and all communities — and act to defend those targeted for their religious beliefs, who they love or how they identify,” Newsom said Monday. “An attack against any community is an attack against our entire state — who we are and what we stand for.”
The governor said he will include the $15 million in his revised spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1 that will be unveiled next month.
If approved by the Legislature, the funding would be the largest ever under the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. The money was first proposed by lawmakers earlier this month, but they said Monday that it has taken on new urgency since a gunman entered a synagogue on Saturday and shot four people, including a 60-year-old woman who died in the attack.
Hundreds of applications for security grants have gone unfunded, including requests last year for $7.5 million.
The money has been provided during the last four years in competitive grants of up to $75,000 each to nonprofit institutions. The lawmakers said Monday that they want the grants to be increased to up to $200,000.
The state has provided $4.5 million since 2015 — including $2 million that first year — while a related federal program has provided $12 million in security grants in California.
The increase is justified, lawmakers said, because of an increase in violent hate crimes including the 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and a mass shooting this year at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the bombings of churches and hotels on Easter in Sri Lanka.
The Anti-Defamation League’s report on Monday, which came after Newsom’s announcement, examined the 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents last year that the ADL identified by combing through reports from police, victims and news publications. That total was the third-highest since the annual accounting began four decades ago.
The budget request endorsed by Newsom is not the only pending proposal to address hate crimes.
Newsom said the budget he released in January also included $10 million for the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and $2 million for the California Museum in Sacramento, which houses the Unity Center, to help increase educational efforts to reduce anti-Semitism.
Newsom also said Monday that he will work with the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to make sure training is up to date in dealing with hate crimes.
Newsom noted that the Trump administration has made deep cuts in federal funding to combat domestic terrorism. Newsom said that if the president will not take action to shield Californians from that threat, the state will “step into that position of leadership.”
“Anti-Semitism is on the rise,” Newsom said. “To be fair, it was on the rise before Trump took the oath of office. But they have accelerated it. Hate has been weaponized.”
The Jewish Caucus welcomed the governor’s commitments.
“With the stark rise in hate-motivated violence, we must do more to secure gathering places to prevent future attacks, and educate people on the dangers of anti-Semitism and hate of all forms,” said Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), chairman of the caucus.
Newsom told reporters at the Capitol that he was relieved that the FBI was able to thwart a potential terrorist attack in Long Beach, in part by having an undercover operation respond to social media posts by the suspect.
The governor said such cases raise concerns about hate speech on the internet and the need for such posts to be better policed by those who run social media sites. "I think it would be in the interest of the (tech) leaders to come up here and work with us in a collaborative spirit so we don’t have to legislate," Newsom said.
The news conference by the governor and several legislators was held just hours after the state Legislature marked a day of remembrance for Holocaust victims from World War II.
"We are all one humanity, and the fact that we forget that is part of the reason we need to remember it today," Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) said during the memorial ceremony on the Senate floor, noting she had relatives who died in the Holocaust.
Because the Legislature marked Holocaust Memorial Day during its session Monday, some Holocaust survivors and family members were at the Capitol and voiced support for the increase in funding for security measures.
Newsom was scheduled to attend a private event with the Holocaust survivors later Monday.
“Another tragic shooting has hit home,” said Senate Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), adding there is “No place in our community for hate. I believe San Diego is better than this. Our hearts are with the Chabad of Poway Synagogue families and our larger Jewish community.”