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$20 Million To Help LA Faith Communities Secure Their Campuses

A man in a blue long-sleeved shirt links arms with fellow mourners inside a church.
Mourners at a vigil for the victims of the Chabad of Poway synagogue shooting at the Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church on April 27, 2019 in Poway.
(Sandy Huffaker
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AFP via Getty Images)
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California is distributing more than $20 million to Los Angeles County faith communities, schools and health care providers to help improve security.

“Whether it's learning, or spiritual uplifting, or prayer or whatever it is, you can't access those places if you're in fear for your spiritual, emotional or physical safety,” said Rabbi Josh Knobel of Stephen Wise Temple, which will receive $200,000 to help secure its 19-acre Bel Air campus.

Lawmakers expanded the State Nonprofit Security Grant Program after a fatal 2019 shooting at a San Diego synagogue and amid rising violence against faith-based communities. Incidents in churches, synagogues, temples and mosques increased nearly 35% between 2014 and 2018, according to the L.A. Times.

A man holding four people hostage at a Texas synagogue earlier this month is among the latest examples of anti-semitic attacks throughout the country.

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“We're very grateful that both the state and the federal government have decided this is a priority,” Knobel said. “We want to make sure that symbols, houses of worship and learning are able to protect themselves.”

The funding was available to nonprofit organizations “that are at high risk for violent attacks and hate crimes due to ideology, beliefs or mission.” Assembly Bill 1664 seeks to extend the program, which currently expires in 2025.

Whether it's learning, or spiritual uplifting, or prayer or whatever it is, you can't access those places, if you're in fear for your spiritual, emotional or physical safety.
— Rabbi Josh Knobel, Stephen Wise Temple

Another L.A. County recipient is Al-Umma Center of Santa Clarita Valley.

The mosque is located on a busy stretch of Sierra Highway. Founding member Majub El-Arabi said that on several occasions people have driven by shouting obscenities. The mosque has also received threatening letters telling members “this is not your home,” he said.

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"We feel a sense of heightening the anxiety, so to speak, if there is like a ‘terrorist activity’ overseas … allegedly committed by somebody of the Muslim faith,” El-Arabi said, adding that the faith does not condone “any activity like that.”

“I'm sure that happens to other other faiths as well,” El-Arabi said. “It is part of the existence of human beings, unfortunately.”

The grant will help the center secure a new property with fencing, video surveillance and lighting.