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Threats to Jewish centers spur N.J. to offer grants for security at religious facilities, nonprofits

 New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announces the state grant program. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announces the state grant program. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

The state of New Jersey is making a million dollars in grants available to nonprofit and religious institutions in nine counties to improve their security.

Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, Salem, and Warren counties have not been eligible for federal grants to enhance security.

Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday that recent threats at Jewish Community Centers around the state show the need to protect every area vulnerable to possible attacks.

“These are difficult times when there’s hatred in the world and groups that want to spread that hate,” he said. “It knows no bounds of counties or states. It knows no bounds of any particular religious organization.”

New Jersey Homeland Security Director Chris Rodriquez said the state funds will allow nonprofit and religious groups to install cameras, access control systems, and other security measures.

“We think it will go very far. What we’ve seen, certainly in cases of homegrown violent extremism, is that small security enhancements can act as a deterrent for people to conduct attacks,” Rodriquez said.

Spending on some other programs will be deferred to free up the money for the new security grants, he said.

Avi Richler, a rabbi based in Mullica Hill in Gloucester County, said that funding can make a difference.

“Every nonprofit, specifically faith-based communities, 99 percent of them are on shoestring budgets,” he said. “What we’re hoping is some of these dollars will go to allow institutions to take a good look at their target hardening of security. For the most part, what I have found, is that it’s way below par.”

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