Tuesday, May 17th | 16 Iyyar 5782

July 13, 2021 3:39 pm

Orthodox Jews Call on US Congress to Pass ‘Pray Safe’ Act to Protect Houses of Worship From Violence

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

A casket is carried from Rodef Shalom Temple after funeral services for brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Oct. 30, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Cathal McNaughton.

The main organization representing Orthodox Jews in the US has urged Congress to approve bipartisan legislation that would enhance the security of the Jewish community and other faith groups while at prayer.

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (Orthodox Union) called on the US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to approve the Pray Safe Act (S.2123) at its committee markup session on Wednesday. The  legislation would establish a federal clearinghouse on safety and security to govern best practices for faith-based organizations.

Drafted by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), the Pray Safe Act would direct the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, working with the Department of Justice, the Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and other agencies, to create the clearinghouse, which would provide at risk houses of worship and other faith-based organizations with the most up-to-date safety and security recommendations, as well as information on federal resources and relevant grant programs.

The Orthodox Union’s Executive Director for Public Policy, Nathan Diament, said it was “tragic that in the United States today, synagogues, churches, temples and other houses of worship can’t be assumed to be sanctuaries from violence and have been the sites of faith-targeted violence.”

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American Jews suffered the worst antisemitic atrocity in their history in Oct. 2018, when a neo-Nazi gunman burst into the “Tree of Life” synagogue in Pittsburgh, murdering 11 worshipers and wounding six others, including four police officers.

“This legislation, when enacted and implemented, will support the greater security and safety of our community’s synagogues and other communities houses of worship,” Diament added. “It is sad that we need this kind of legislation — but we do — and we call upon Congress to pass it right away.”

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