GEMA extends deadline for houses of worship to take advantage of federal protection grants

GEMA-Homeland Security is extending the deadline for houses of worship to apply for federal grants to upgrade security.

This comes two days after a Jewish Civil Rights organization said it saw more antisemitic incidents last year than in the previous three years combined.

The grants can be used for just about everything from hiring off-duty police officers to security cameras and doors.

Even though the federal money is out there, some leaders are asking the state to kick some in too.

An armed guard outside DeKalb County’s Beth Jacob synagogue is an all too familiar site at many houses of worship.

The Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday released its 2023 audit which it said it recorded a 140% increase in antisemitic incidents nationwide in 2023. The 8,900 incidents, it says, were more than the previous three years combined.


Harassments, assaults and vandalism was also up and the organization said bomb threats to synagogues and Jewish Centers spiked 1,000%.

“Security is always the number one concern,” said Eytan Davidson with the Anti-Defamation League.

Davidson told Channel 2′s Richard Elliot that many synagogues and Jewish community centers need and know about know about the federal FEMA money available for security upgrades -- grants administered by GEMA-Homeland Security.

He’s happy to learn GEMA extended the deadline to apply an extra two weeks to April 30, giving organizations and houses of worship more time to apply.

“These are federal dollars. They’re extremely helpful, however, as with all government funding, the pool is limited,” Davidson said.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Rich Walter helps local nonprofits apply for the grants, which total $274 million -- $30 million less than last year.

That’s for every nonprofit in the US, and the money can’t be used for security guards, only infrastructure, and can only be used to reimburse synagogues and other organizations.

So if they don’t have the money upfront, they may not get it on the back end.

“Every dollar that a synagogue or a school has to spend on a security guard is a dollar they’re not spending on education and enriching the lives of their constituents,” Walter said.

This is why the ADL is asking Georgia lawmakers to create a security grant using state dollars, which they say could help.