For essentially the most half, serving on my synagogue’s board of trustees hasn’t concerned dramatic selections. Normally we focus on routine issues akin to the best way to pay for repairs on the home we offer our rabbi. Throughout the pandemic, we debated whether or not to open the preschool or refund mother and father’ funds. However over the previous a number of years a extra worrisome matter has appeared on our agenda. I name it the anti-Semitism tax.
Greater than 5% of our finances is now dedicated to safety to guard the congregation. That’s greater than $150,000 a 12 months to forestall tragedies just like the lethal assault on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 or the hostage-taking at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, in January. We had lengthy used funds to rent off-duty cops for the Excessive Holidays to direct visitors, however that is rather more severe.
Each Jewish congregation is, as they are saying in accounting, a bath by itself backside. There’s no diocese or sanhedrin to supply monetary help. Membership dues preserve the lights on. Safety spending comes on the expense of different finances gadgets: constructing repairs, new books for the library, or decrease tuition for preschool mother and father, a key supply of the brand new members we have to thrive as a neighborhood of believers. Ours is a fairly well-off congregation, however people who aren’t face arduous selections.
“Congregations have had to invest both in physical infrastructure and ongoing security personnel and processes,” observes Rabbi
who heads the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. “Synagogues would obviously rather spend on our core functions of study, worship, volunteerism and community building.”
We Jews are hardly the one non secular individuals in danger. There have been quite a few shootings at non secular websites lately, most notably on the Mom Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., (9 lifeless), the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas (26 lifeless), and the Sikh temple of Oak Creek, Wis. (six lifeless). About 80% of Protestant pastors say they’ve some safety measures in place, in keeping with a 2019 Lifeway Analysis survey.
But after I reviewed the budgets of mainline Protestant church buildings in my very own neighborhood, I discovered no safety line gadgets remotely on par with these in my synagogue. Possibly we’re extra fearful due to our historical past, however the Jewish neighborhood has been the greatest goal of religious-based hate crimes within the U.S. since official reporting began greater than a quarter-century in the past. The numbers have risen lately.
The federal government acknowledges that homes of worship, usually, could be targets for assault. Federal Emergency Administration Company grants can be found for functions akin to “hardening” a constructing’s perimeter. The brand new federal Nonprofit Safety Grant Program permits such help for any “at-risk” nonprofit—a bow to the Structure’s Institution Clause—and Congress appropriated $180 million in 2021 for protecting measures.
But as a minor synagogue official, I discover this lower than reassuring. I’m chary, within the first place, in regards to the message despatched by the synagogue as fortress. We danger giving potential new members the impression that attending shul is harmful.
I’m additionally involved about turning to authorities in any respect. Traditionally, Jewish communities have been devoutly self-reliant, whether or not in Jerusalem, Warsaw or Shanghai—together with in instances of far better danger than right now. In search of authorities assist brings implicit issues. Will we be secure solely in years of finances surpluses? Will rigidity come up as these of varied faiths compete for funds? There already are extra grant seekers than grants. For 2021 lower than half of all Nonprofit Safety Grant functions obtained funding.
We Jews have by no means taken authorities knowledge or common sense with no consideration. Every week we provide a particular prayer for our authorities, asking that God train officers “insights from your Torah” such that “peace and security may abide in our midst.” Word the usage of “may.” The perceived want for such a prayer exhibits that we take nothing with no consideration.
Nonetheless, in my view, when it got here to a vote, mine was an aye on the finances that included safety spending. However the Talmudic pondering above, I discovered I couldn’t be the one to vote nay.
Mr. Husock is a senior fellow on the American Enterprise Institute.
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