State Rep. Elaine Davis and State Sen. Richard Briggs announced Wednesday that the grants will be administered by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and will be used to pay for contracted security personnel.
Federal funding provided money for hardening security at Jewish institutions previously, but the state grant is specifically focused on funding personnel.
Jewish groups across Tennessee began advocating for additional security funds a few years ago at the state level. Bryan Goldberg, President of the Knoxville Jewish Alliance, said the funds are needed now more than ever.
“Nobody could’ve foreseen the events of October 7th, absolutely nobody, and now the astronomical rise of antisemitism is quite literally debilitating to the Jewish community in Knoxville, Tennessee. People are scared to go to their houses of worship,” Goldberg said.
The Jewish Alliance is one of four Knox County establishments receiving grant money, along with the Knoxville Jewish Day School, Temple Beth El and Heska Amuna Synagogue.
“The grant monies allow us to go to our houses of worship, allow our preschool parents to drop off our kids with security officers that keep an eye out for our safety and it gives us another sense of security for our community,” Goldberg said.
The funds are part of a $750,000 budget appropriation for the Houses of Worship Security Grant Program that was secured by Rep. Davis and Sen. Briggs earlier this year.
“We respect all religions and we want people to be able to worship in safety. It’s a very important part of being an American, it’s a very important part of being a Tennessean,” Briggs said.
For Briggs, the issue hits close to home. His father was one of the first American troops to enter the Dachau concentration camp in Germany near the end of World War II.
“This is something that I’ve heard my father talk about his entire life that really affected him, seeing how people could be persecuted for that and it was something he’d never want to see in America,” Briggs said.
Each institution will receive the following amounts of money:
- Heska Amuna Synagogue: $13,170
- Knoxville Jewish Alliance: $62,714
- Stanford Eisenberg Knoxville Jewish Day School: $56,075
- Temple Beth El: $19,601