N.H. Places of Worship Wonder Why They Weren't Included in Security Grants

Aug 13, 2019

Temple Israel in Manchester is one religious organization where leaders are wondering why they weren't given security funding.
Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR

After several New Hampshire religious organizations were awarded federal grants last week to help strengthen security, others are wondering why they weren't included.

The grants, funded through the State Homeland Security Program, totaled $150,000 for seven religious organizations in the state. They're meant to help protect places of worship from foreign and domestic terrorism.

Also included was over $4 million for the state of New Hampshire for state security, funded through the Department of Homeland Security.

Beth Sloat is the chair of the security committee at Temple Beth Jacob in Concord. She said her synagogue applied for the grant, but didn't get any funding. She only found out that her temple wasn’t a recipient after reading about the grantees in the newspapers last week, she said.

Temple Beth Jacob received increased attention from police last December after it received a number of emailed threats against New Hampshire's Jewish community.

"It keeps us all on edge, and I think that's why we were hoping, that we've actually had threats, that we would get the grant,” Sloat said.

Temple Israel in Manchester also applied for the funding and did not receive it. Steve Saulten, the President of that synagogue, said the community was “distressed” and confused about why they weren’t one of the recipients.

“I can’t imagine that homeland security found [us] less at risk or less needy than some of the ones that were awarded it, but I didn’t understand it to be a contest…that wasn’t what I expected,” he said.

The following places of worship were awarded the grant funding:

  • Bedford Presbyterian Church
  • Bethany Congregational Christian Church in Greenland
  • First Congregational Church in Littleton
  • Chabad of New Hampshire in Manchester
  • Temple Adath Yeshurun in Manchester
  • Temple Beth Abraham of Nashua
  • The Etz Hayim Synagogue in Derry 

In a statement, a spokesman for FEMA said 20 religious organizations applied in total. State and federal agencies scored and prioritized the applications, but the budget didn't allow for all 20 requests to be funded.

“Organizations that were at risk due to their ideology, beliefs, or mission were prioritized; additionally, organizations that had not received NSGP funding in prior years were also prioritized,” the statement said.

The New Hampshire Department of Safety, the agency through which the religious organizations applied for the federal grant, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

No Muslim or other minority religious groups in New Hampshire - apart from those listed above - received grant funding. The Islamic Society of New Hampshire in Manchester - whose unfinished Mosque has repeatedly been vandalized - and the Islamic Society of Greater Concord did not respond to requests for comment.