PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island’s delegation announced Wednesday that seven “high-risk” nonprofit organizations would receive funding to upgrade their physical security to defend against a future, violent attack. All seven have links to the Jewish Faith.
The Anti-Defamation League recently reported that antisemitic incidents in the US remain at historic levels, with a total of 2,024 incidents of assault, harassment, and vandalism that occurred in 2020.
In Rhode Island, the organization also tracked 68 extremist incidents, which included white nationalist and antisemitic acts of hate. Most recently, a man was arrested and charged in Bristol, Rhode Island for distributing propaganda that included a photo of Hitler, a swastika, and the words “White Boy Summer.” In another incident in May, the nationalist Social Club, a neo-Nazi group, hung a banner on a Providence overpass that read “Community means anti-white!”
In March, the same group also distributed propaganda that included its logo and a message that read, “Zionism is Terrorism.”
“Rhode Island was founded as a haven for religious freedom, and we take that principle seriously to this day,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in a statement.
The funds, which totaled $546,710, were administered by the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which had a $180 million budget for Fiscal Year 2021, up from $90 million in 2020. The program was designed to help nonprofits “support and integrate preparedness activities with broader state and local efforts” and to coordinate emergency preparedness among public and private community representatives.
Representative Jim Langevin, a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee who co-authored the legislation creating the nonprofit grant program, said in a statement that these are “precarious times.”
“We must do all we can to defend our local, high-risk nonprofits from those who wish to do them harm,” said Langevin.
“Antisemitism and the rise of white nationalist domestic terrorism are some of the greatest threats our country faces,” said Representative David Cicilline. “These federal grants will provide meaningful security upgrades for Rhode Island non-profits to allow their staffs and community members to feel safe in places of worship, schools, and their homes.”
The grant program was open to all high-risk nonprofit organizations, and Homeland Security decided which applicants would receive funds. Nationwide, funds were dispersed to churches, mosques, and other organizations of various faiths, according to a federal employee with knowledge of the program.
It’s unclear if other faith-based organizations in Rhode Island applied for these grants and, if so, why they were not chosen.
A Homeland Security spokesperson did not immediately respond to the Globe on Wednesday.
The agency has since distributed more than $100 million to high-risk nonprofits.
“At a time of rising antisemitism and enhanced vulnerability caused by the constant threat of violence by domestic extremists, these grants provide Rhode Island non-profits and faith communities an opportunity to invest in security. In recent months we have witnessed that the threat is real and active, making the need to prioritize security urgent,” said Robert Trestan, regional director of ADL New England.