LONGMEADOW – On May 18 Massachusetts State Senator Eric P. Lesser was joined by Susan Halpern of JGS Lifecare, Longmeadow Police Chief Robert Stocks, and members of the community to welcome $27,280 in nonprofit security grant funding for JGS Lifecare in Longmeadow. Sen. Lesser has been a champion of the program since its inception in 2018 and has worked to see its expansion from $75,000 in its first year of existence to $1.5 million in FY21.
In recent years, communities throughout the country have seen a growth in hate incidents targeting LGBTQ+, Black, Jewish, Asian, and Muslim groups and organizations. In Western Massachusetts, there have been threats placed upon the Springfield Jewish Community Center in March of 2017, the attempted arson at Ruth’s House operated by JGS Lifecare Inc. in April of 2020, the attempted arson at the MLK Community Presbyterian Church in December of 2020, and the ‘Zoom bombing’ during a meeting of the Longmeadow Coalition for Racial Justice Task Force in March of 2021.
“Last year’s attempted arson at Ruth’s House was fueled by anti-semitism and hate. Thanks to quick action from law enforcement, the culprit was apprehended, but it was an example of a broader trend of documented increase in hate crimes, hate speech, and in anti-semitic acts both in Massachusetts and across the country,” said Sen. Lesser. “In response to these targeted acts of hate and growing trends, three years ago, a group of Legislators, including myself, started a fund that nonprofit institutions of heightened risk of threat could draw upon to make physical security enhancements. I wish we didn’t need these types of enhancements at peaceful places of worship, but it is necessary, because we’ve seen these incidents time and time again. This program has grown from 3 recipients to 53 recipients this year. We will continue fighting in this upcoming budget to enhance funding for this program even more in order to provide support and protection to more local organizations.”
In response to last year’s antisemitic hate crime at Ruth’s House, the grant will help JGS Lifecare enhance their campus surveillance system with the purchase of additional professional grade cameras, video equipment and intercom sets.
“We are so thankful to be the recipient of a Commonwealth nonprofit security grant that will help us enhance the surveillance system on our campus. JGS Lifecare was founded in 1912 as the Daughters of Zion Home for the Aged on Massasoit Street in Springfield,” said Halpern, JGS Lifecare Vice President of Development and Communication. “It is unfortunate that grants like these are necessary, but we offer our sincerest thanks to Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, Secretary Tom Turco, Senator Eric Lesser, and members of the legislature, for making these safety grants available.”
“On behalf of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, we wish to thank Senator Lesser for his assistance in securing funding in the state budget to help provide nonprofit security grants for two of our community organizations,” said Stewart L. Bromberg, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts. “These are difficult times and security is a major concern for all of us. Thank you, Eric, for your continued support of our community.”
“It is disheartening we are dealing with hate crimes within our Commonwealth and throughout the country,” said Rep. Brian M. Ashe of Longmeadow. “Although I am pleased JGS received this needed funding, it is my hope that all faith-based organizations and community facilities will feel safe and welcomed by all residents. I would like to thank Senator Lesser for his work on expanding the funding for security enhancements for non-profits and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the legislature to ensure this funding remains available to other organizations in the future.”