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California lawmakers seek program extension to protect houses of worship after Texas hostage situation

Asm. Jesse Gabriel said the state allocated $50 million to the program last year, but hate is far from over.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Legislative Jewish Caucus introduced legislation today to extend protections for houses of worship or any non-profits like LGBTQ centers or abortion clinics that face the threat of violent hate. The program was set to end in 2025. 

This decision follows the hostage situation at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas over the weekend.

The nonprofit security grant program was created in 2019 following the deadly shooting at the Chabad in Poway in San Diego County.

Rabbi Josh Dorsch leads the Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Diego, located just 30 minutes away from Poway.

“We're just finishing off our services at the very end, and we're interrupted by our maintenance staff, by police officers," Rabbi Dorsch said. "My daughter and children are playing on the playground outside, and I'm told that we need to bring them all inside because we've been told that there's an active shooter at a synagogue.”  

Fast forward to 2022 and once again on the holiest day of the week, four Jews were taken hostage at a synagogue in Texas. 

“You know, this doesn't surprise us anymore," he said. "That doesn't make it any less terrifying.”

It’s why Assemblyman and Jewish Caucus Chair Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills) authored the legislation in 2019 and is now calling to renew it. It provides funding to nonprofits to help pay for security, security training, and installing security enhancements like cameras, lights, and reinforced doors. 

“The rabbi in the standoff at the Congregation Beth Israel in Texas who was taken hostage, the next day he specifically credited security training that he had received for saving their lives,” Gabriel said.

He said the state budget allocated $50 million to the program last year

“The governor's Office of Emergency Services releases an application," he said. "Nonprofits across the state can apply. And then experts from law enforcement actually look at all the applications, and they decide which are the nonprofits that are facing the greatest threat.”

"So we need to do everything we possibly can to make sure that we have a safe space physically, so we can provide a safe space spiritually and emotionally," Rabbi Dorsch said. 

The one thing the rabbi hopes changes with this new legislation is making the grant application easier. He said the Jewish Federation of San Diego had to give a grant to the synagogue to help them hire someone to fill out the grant application. 

Asm. Gabriel said he is working on streamlining the process. 

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