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Arkansas Provides Funding for Jewish Organizations Battling Spike in Antisemitic Threats

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Over the past six months, the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel has resulted in a huge spike in antisemitism across the U.S.

Here in Little Rock, Arkansas, a county patrol vehicle now guards the Lubavitch Jewish Center. 

Rabbi Pinchus Ciment of Lubavitch of Arkansas said, "We work together with law enforcement to make sure things can operate in a safe way."

At the nearby Congregation B'Nai Israel, tiny pieces of broken glass remain as evidence of an act of vandalism.

"I can't say how it happened but it certainly has never happened before," said Annabelle Imber Tuck, Temple B'Nai Israel Congregation president.

Both incidents are examples of growing antisemitism across America's heartland.

Since the October 7 Hamas attack, Little Rock synagogues have been the target of two bomb threats, creating safety concerns for Jewish congregations.

"These are incidents we usually see in large metropolitan communities, not in our smaller communities," said Lindsay Baach Friedman with the Anti-Defamation League. "So it's even more shocking, it's even more unsettling, to see and hear that the Little Rock Jewish community is so deeply impacted."

A recent national survey revealed antisemitism to be at its highest level since the Anti-Defamation League began tracking the data more than 40 years ago.

Lindsay added, "Nationally, ADL is reporting out over 3,300 incidents of antisemitism since October 7th. Since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out. That's over a 350% increase."

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the right to worship freely and safely our most fundamental right. But nothing existed previously to aid those who were at a possible threat of a terrorist attack. So the Governor's office worked with Arkansas State Police and the State Legislature to address it.

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Representative Mindy McAlindon from the Arkansas State Legislature explained, "Basically what it does is it provides funds for organizations that are spiritual, religious-based to enhance their safety protocols to ensure they are able to offer safe worship for their congregants."

After its approval to provide $500,000, more than 31 applicants responded with requests seeking more than $2 million. So far $227,000 has been awarded to six organizations. Of those six, four are Jewish, including B'Nai Israel and Lubavitch of Arkansas which plans to continue paying for a police presence and adding unseen security measures.

"We are very gratified and thankful to the Governor who made this initiative to help reduce the concern and fear factor that presents itself in the community when this took place on October 7," said Rabbi Ciment.

Combating antisemitism is a centuries-old battle. Offering funding for protection is one way Arkansas is fighting back.

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