RELEASE: Amid Rise in Hate, Gottheimer Announces Steps to Protect Houses of Worship, Religious Schools, College Students, and NJ Communities

Calls for End of Masked “Protestors” at Rutgers & at all Protests. Announces New Nonprofit Security Grants — $4.8M to NJ Houses of Worship, Schools. Takes on Violence, Intimidation, Antisemitism, Islamophobia Across U.S.

Nov 13, 2023
Press

Above: Gottheimer announces new steps to protect college students, houses of worship, parochial schools, and NJ communities.

GLEN ROCK, NJ — Today, November 13, 2023, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) joined the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, local law enforcement, and religious leaders to announce major steps to protect New Jersey’s college students, houses of worship and parochial schools, and communities across our state and country. 

Since, October 7, when Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and brutally murdered, raped, burned alive, decapitated, and kidnapped more than 1,200 innocent babies, children, men, women, and elderly, including Americans, there has been a spike in hatred, antisemitism, and Islamophobia in America. Recently, FBI Director Christopher Wray stated that antisemitism in the United States is reaching “historic levels,” and that this is a time for “vigilance.”

New Steps to Protect College Students, Houses of Worship, Religious Schools, and Communities:

  • First, Gottheimer is calling on the Department of Treasury and the Department of Justice to investigate campus groups, masquerading as student organizations, including in New Jersey, to examine whether they have financial ties or are providing material support to terrorists and their supporters. 
    • Specifically, are they illegally receiving funding or providing material or financial support to terrorist groups like Hamas. We know that in the past, groups have been caught acting as a front and funneling money to Hamas from inside the U.S. 
  • Second, Gottheimer is urging the Department of Education to investigate the alarming use of face masks at anti-Israel protests to intimidate students and sow dangerous chaos. These tactics violate students’ rights, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, to a safe learning environment free from hatred.
    • Gottheimer is also calling on the Department of Education to examine whether university administrators’ lack of response to actions designed to intimidate and create hateful and dangerous conditions on campus, including at Rutgers, constitutes violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. 
    • Gottheimer also called on Rutgers President Holloway to immediately change his policy on masks at protests.
       
  • Lastly, Gottheimer announced that in the latest round of 2023 awardees, he helped claw back more than $4.8 million in new Nonprofit Security grant dollars to 34 houses of worship and religious schools across New Jersey’s Fifth District — the most out of any year since he came to Congress. 
    • Nonprofit Security Grants provide critical investments for target hardening and physical security enhancements to help prevent, and keep communities safe from, terrorist attacks and other domestic threats.
    • This year’s federal investments include nearly $150,000 to the Glen Rock Jewish Center and $150,000 for a Sikh Gurdwara.
    • Since coming to Congress, Gottheimer has helped claw back more than $12 million in Nonprofit Security grants to protect our mosques, synagogues, churches, and parochial schools across Jersey – the most across the state. 

Violence and Hatred Across America Following Hamas’ Terror Attack on October 7, 2023:

  • In the month following Hamas’s October 7 terror attack on Israel, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. increased by 316% compared to the same time period last year.  
  • Despicable words and acts have been directed at Muslims based on the ridiculous notion that Hamas represents Islam and the Palestinian people. 
  • In Illinois, a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy was brutally murdered.
  • Paul Kessler, a sixty-nine-year-old Jewish man and a peaceful protestor, was murdered in Los Angeles when a pro-Hamas supporter struck Paul, forcing him to fall backward and fatally hit his head. 
  • At Grand Central Station, pro-Hamas supporters attempted to kick down doors and force police to set up barricades. The station had to be temporarily shut down. One of these people was tearing down American flags in New York City. 
  • There have been Nazi flags at protests in cities across our nation. People screaming for the death of Jews, supporting Hamas, and saying Zionism equals Hitler. 

Intimidation and Hatred on College Campuses:

  • At George Washington University, pro-Hamas students flashed “Glory to Our Martyrs” on the side of a building — glorifying terrorism and the murder of more than a thousand.
  • The University of Pennsylvania recently decided to host two well-known antisemitic and anti-Israel speakers. 
  • At a University of Pennsylvania anti-Israel rally, a student speaker claimed the events of October 7 made her feel “so empowered and happy.”
  • Harvard and Rutgers students chanted “from the river to the sea” and continue to wear masks to hide their identities as they violently protest. This slogan means the eradication of Jews and Israel and Hamas includes it in their charter. 
  • Students at Rutgers are wearing masks because they want to cause destruction and intimidate others, especially Jewish students, without being held accountable.
  • At the University of Maryland, so-called protestors chanted for an Intifada and graffitied “Holocaust 2.0” onto the sidewalk. 
  • At Harvard, violent protestors surrounded a Jewish student.
  • On an online forum for Rutgers students, someone anonymously wrote: “Palestinian protestors, there is an Israeli at AEPi , go kill him.”

“I can’t help but think back to times during our nation’s history when cowards have worn masks, hiding their faces, and violently oppressed fellow Americans. It sickens me that at this very moment, students at Rutgers and across the nation are forced to live in fear or feel like they need to hide their faith,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5).“I will always defend the right to free speech, even when what’s being said is incredibly offensive. But, I won’t sit back when words and actions violate the law and put Jersey’s students and families in danger. We must take strong action against Hamas and other terrorist sympathizers, funders, and supporters, whether that’s in our neighborhoods, on our city streets, on social media, at our religious institutions, or on college campuses.”

Gottheimer continued, “First, I’m calling on the Department of Treasury and the Department of Justice to investigate campus groups, masquerading as student organizations, including here in New Jersey, to examine whether they have financial ties to terrorists and their supporters. Second, I’m urging the US Department of Education to investigate the alarming use of face masks at anti-Israel protests as a way to intimidate and endanger students. These tactics are violating students’ right to a safe learning environment, free from hatred and violence, and I believe a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Finally, I’m working with the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness, local law enforcement, and all of our faith leaders – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, including Rabbi Schlosberg, to protect all of our communities. I want to thank the Governor and Sheriffs in all the counties I represent for assigning more law enforcement to our houses of worship and parochial schools this last month.”

“While we look overseas, especially right now in the conflict in the Middle East, this tells us that we can’t just stand on our laurels here with the money we have. We have to remain vigilant and stand up in solidarity against any form of hate and violence. After all, our common values outweigh our differences here,” said New Jersey Office of Homeland Security & Preparedness Director Laurie R. Doran. “In this third quarter, we logged more instances related to faith-based groups than we have in a number of years.”

“It saddens our hearts, and we bow our heads in pain at the thought that we even need to be here today. But my friends, our number one priority in our country, in our district, in our nations, the number one priority is the safety and wellbeing of our citizens. Citizens of all races and creeds, all identities and faiths,” said Glen Rock Jewish Center Rabbi Schlosberg. “So as a leader of faith in this district and a member of the clergy who leads under the stars and stripes of our flag, I want to express my deep gratitude to all of those who are a part of distributing the Homeland Security Grants to houses of worship thus far.”

“Thank you to Congressman Gottheimer for the invitation to be here and for your constant work to keep our Bergen County community safe. As chief of the Bias Crime Unit, I’m acutely aware of the acts of hate and violence against various groups across our county. I’m specifically aware of the tremendous rise of bias incidents in the last four weeks following the events in the Middle East. Many of the incidents occur during the protests and rallies that have been held throughout our county. But also in our schools committed by our young juveniles,” said Bergen County Assistant Prosecutor Vered Adoni. “In fact, a large majority of the bias incidents reported are committed by the juveniles in our schools. It is our priority to ensure that our juveniles are educated on the consequences of their biased behavior, that our communities are safe, and that our residents know where to go whenever they have been the victim of a bias crime.”

Gottheimer was joined at the Glen Rock Jewish Center by New Jersey Office of Homeland Security & Preparedness Director Laurie R. Doran, Bergen County Assistant Prosecutor Vered Adoni, Glen Rock Jewish Center Rabbi Schlosberg, Glen Rock Police Chief Dean Ackerman, and Glen Rock Councilwoman Paula Gilligan.

Video of today’s announcement can be found here.

Below: Gottheimer announces new steps to protect college students, houses of worship, parochial schools, and NJ communities.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Thank you, Director Doran, for your leadership. Thank you, Glen Rock Police Chief Ackerman, for all you and your officers do to work, especially with local religious leaders, so that all of our houses of worship are safe. 

We’re also incredibly lucky to be joined by Bergen County Assistant Prosecutor Adoni who is an expert in bias crimes and actually grew up in Israel before moving to North Jersey as a teenager. In fact, after graduating from Paramus High School, she returned to Israel to serve in the IDF.  

I know that our law enforcement has been in constant contact with Rabbi Schlosberg. Rabbi, thank you for opening your doors to all of us here today. We invited leaders from many faiths here today, but unfortunately schedules can be difficult to coordinate.    

I’d also like to take a moment to thank Governor Phil Murphy for his unwavering support for the State of Israel and commitment to its security and stability. From the moment the terrorist group, Hamas, invaded Israel and brutally murdered, raped, burned alive, and decapitated more than 1,200 innocent babies, children, men, women, and elderly, including Americans, and kidnapped hundreds, the Governor has been at the forefront of keeping New Jersey’s houses of worship and our communities safe from the threats, hate, and violence. I spoke to him yesterday and he sent his regards.

Across our communities, states, and nation, the events unfolding in Israel and Gaza, and the broader Middle East, have had a strong impact on all Americans. Jews, Muslims, and Christians at home and around the world are suffering.

Hamas has waged indiscriminate terror, including bearing responsibility for thousands of Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza, in addition, of course, to the more than 1,200 innocent Israelis and Americans killed on October 7. More than 230 are still being held hostage – including nearly a dozen Americans.  

Hamas continues to store weapons, launch rockets, and house themselves in schools, hospitals, mosques, and homes. All of this puts the lives of innocent Palestinians at risk. Hamas uses civilians as human shields, a cowardly practice.

As the only Jewish member of the New Jersey congressional delegation, and the only Jewish member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, I’m full of grief, anger, and disgust over the incidents of the last month. These events have hit me, my family, and so many of our families in the community very hard as we witnessed the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

The terror in Israel has resulted in a spike in hatred here in America – of antisemitism and Islamophobia. Recently, in his testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing, FBI Director Wray stated that antisemitism in the United States is reaching “historic levels,” and that this is a time for vigilance. The ADL is documenting a record-high surge in antisemitic incidents. In the month following Hamas’s October 7 terror attack on Israel, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. increased by 316 percent compared to the same time period last year.  

Just last week, Paul Kessler, a sixty-nine-year-old Jewish man and a peaceful protestor, was murdered in Los Angeles when a pro-Hamas supporter struck Paul, forcing him to fall backward and fatally hit his head.  

It’s also right here in New Jersey. It’s not some figment of our imagination. The swastikas, the antisemitic comments, the attacks on Jews in our communities are real.

I also know that the war has been incredibly challenging for our Muslim-American communities. Islamophobia has increased and has resulted in gruesome acts of violence. 

We have seen the despicable words and acts directed at Muslims based on the ridiculous notion that Hamas represents Islam and the Palestinian people which it does not. In Illinois, a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy was brutally murdered – it’s beyond and heartbreaking. It’s up to us to continue to protect Muslim-Americans as Islamophobia rises.

We must stand against those who seek to divide us with threats and violence. We cannot retreat to our own corners and separate communities, because we know that incidents of bias, hate, and violence against any one group are threats against all of our freedoms.

That’s why we must take strong action against Hamas and other terrorist sympathizers, funders, and supporters, whether that’s in our neighborhoods, on our city streets, on social media, at our religious institutions, or on college campuses. 

Today, I’ll be announcing concrete steps that address each of these issues, and the alarming concern coming from so many here in northern New Jersey.

On television, social media, and online we see people in the streets openly supporting Hamas, a Foreign Terrorist Organization, as designated by the United States of America. Last week, I announced new bipartisan legislation to address the alarming spread of disinformation online, including on TikTok which should be immediately sold or shut down. It is a coordinated arm of the Chinese government working closely with Iran, Russia, and Hamas.  

In the streets, at Grand Central Station this weekend, pro-Hamas supporters have attempted to kick down doors and force police to set up barricades. 

The station had to be temporarily shut down. One of these people was tearing down American flags in New York City. 

There have been Nazi flags at protests in cities across our nation. People screaming “kill the Jews,” “Hamas,” “Zionism = Hitler.” At George Washington University, pro-Hamas students flashed “Glory to Our Martyrs” on the side of a building …  glorifying terrorism and the murder of more than a thousand. Even my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, recently decided to host two well-known antisemitic and anti-Israel speakers. 

Since October 7, there have been anti-Israel rallies on many college campuses, including one where a student speaker claimed the events of October 7 made her feel “so empowered and happy.” Again, Americans were killed. Americans still are hostage.

Look at Harvard or Rutgers where terrorist sympathizers – chanting from the river to the sea – continue to wear masks to hide their identities as they violently protest. This slogan means the eradication of Jews and Israel. Hamas even includes it in their charter. 

Make no mistake, these face coverings, these masks being worn on college campuses, are not for religious reasons, they’re doing it because they want to cause destruction and intimidate others, especially Jewish students, without being held accountable.

At the University of Maryland, so-called protestors chanted for an Intifada and graffitied “Holocaust 2.0” onto the sidewalk. At Harvard, violent protestors surrounded a Jewish student … At Rutgers, the President is still allowing students to wear masks and intimidate other Jewish students.

On an online forum for Rutgers students, some coward anonymously wrote: “Palestinian protestors, there is an Israeli at AEPi , go kill him.” Can you imagine being a Jewish student on these campuses? And President Holloway lets them wear cowardly masks to protect themselves from any accountability, only encouraging, in my opinion, more fear and violence. 

Far too many university presidents, including at Rutgers, are failing their students. Freedom of speech does not mean you have the freedom to intimidate and terrorize others. 

I can’t help but think back to times during our nation’s history when cowards wore masks, hiding their faces, and violently oppressed fellow Americans. It sickens me that at this very moment, students at Rutgers and across the nation are forced to live in fear or feel like they need to hide their faith.

I call on Rutgers President Holloway to immediately change his policy on masks at protests, and start standing up for the rights and freedom of all students, regardless of their religion. 

University presidents and administrators have a responsibility to protect all students, including Jewish students, and forcefully condemn Hamas terrorists and other foreign terrorist organizations. There is no room for hate of any kind at colleges — including racism, Islamophobia, or antisemitism. 

I will always defend the right to free speech, even when what’s being said is incredibly offensive. But, I won’t sit back when words and actions violate the law and put Jersey’s students and families in danger. 

Individuals and organizations, whether that’s on college campuses or in communities here or across our country, may not fund or provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations like Hamas or Hezbollah. It is against the law, and, over the years, the Department of Justice has successfully prosecuted many cases of those who break this law and put our families in harm’s way.

Today, we are here with law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office, and the Office of Homeland Security to announce three major steps to protect our students, our houses of worship and parochial schools, and, of course, our communities across our state and country.

First, I’m calling on the Department of Treasury and the Department of Justice to investigate campus groups, masquerading as student organizations, including here in New Jersey, to examine whether they have financial ties to terrorists and their supporters. Specifically, we need to know whether they are illegally receiving funding or providing material or financial support to terrorist groups like Hamas. We know that in the past, groups have been caught acting as a front and funneling money to Hamas from inside the U.S. There is a clear and coordinated rise of antisemitic and anti-Zionist hatred across the country. 

We need to know if these groups are funding, or being funded by, terrorism, or are providing material support.

Second, I’m urging the US Department of Education to investigate the alarming use of face masks at anti-Israel protests as a way to intimidate and endanger students. These tactics are violating students’ right to a safe learning environment, free from hatred and violence, and I believe a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. 

I’m also calling on the Department of Education to examine whether the lack of response to these dangerous and hateful conditions from college administrators, including at Rutgers, constitutes violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act which guarantees the right of all students to learn in an environment free from hatred and discrimination. I’ll be sending a letter to the Department of Education this week on this issue. 

The Department of Education has a solemn obligation to enforce Title VI to protect all students from hate, including Jewish students who are facing record levels of antisemitism. This is critical as well to those facing Islamophobia. 

As a recipient of federal financial assistance, universities like Rutgers are obligated to create a safe environment for all students regardless of their religion or background. 

Finally, I’m working with the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness, local law enforcement, and all of our faith leaders – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, including Rabbi Schlosberg, to protect all of our communities. I want to thank the Governor and Sheriffs in all the counties I represent for assigning more law enforcement to our houses of worship and parochial schools this last month. 

I want to stress that it takes all of us looking out for each other to stay safe. We must all be vigilant during these trying times as people glorify violence against children, speak in support of terrorism, sow hatred and chaos, and threaten all of our communities — Jewish, Muslim, Christian.

It’s critical that we make sure our towns and first responders have the resources they need to protect our communities. We also need to get more federal resources to our houses of worship and parochial schools. 

I’m proud to announce that in the latest round of awardees this year, we clawed back from the federal government more than $4.8 million dollars in new Nonprofit Security grant dollars to 34 houses of worship and religious schools across New Jersey’s Fifth Congressional District — the most out of any year since I have been elected to Congress. 

Nonprofit Security Grants provide critical investments for target hardening and physical security enhancements to help prevent, and keep communities safe from, terrorist attacks and other domestic threats.

This year’s massive federal investment includes two new investments here in Glen Rock totaling $300,000 dollars. We clawed back nearly $150,000 dollars to the Glen Rock Jewish Center and another $150,000 for a Sikh Gurdwara.

Since coming to Congress, working with our counties, towns, schools, and faith leaders, I’ve helped claw back more than $12 million of dollars in Nonprofit Security grants to protect our mosques, synagogues, churches, and parochial schools across Jersey – the most across the state. These are competitive federal grants that if we didn’t win would otherwise go to other states. 

My fundamental responsibility as your Congressman is to help keep our families and communities safe, and I will never stop fighting to do so.

As I mentioned earlier, bias, hate, and violence against any one group is a threat against all of our freedoms and we must unite against the rise in hate across our state and nation.

I am proud to represent a robust and diverse community here in North Jersey, filled with people of many different backgrounds, different beliefs, and different religions. 

Our country has a rich history of tolerance and religious freedom which is exactly why people from around the world want to come to America, not China or Russia. It’s also why all need to speak up at this critical moment.

We are always strongest when we come together and focus on what unites us — when we reach out to others, and when we encourage dialogue.

Here in the greatest country in the world, I know that if we remember to put our country first and work together — even in difficult times — our best days will always be ahead of us.

God bless you, your families, and our troops, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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