California announces significant expansion of its nonprofit security grants as pro- and anti-Israel protesters clash outside L.A. synagogue

Budget deal reached between state officials giving $80 million to nonprofits, which local Jewish leaders call a 'major victory'; meanwhile, demonstrators blocked access to a synagogue, leading to violence in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood

The State of California is expected to allocate $80 million in nonprofit security grants for the next two years, a substantial increase from the previous budget, in a significant victory for the state’s Jewish Public Affairs Committee and the California Legislative Jewish Caucus.

The security grant agreement was announced at roughly the same time as clashes broke out between pro- and anti-Israel demonstrators outside congregation Adas Torah in Los Angeles’ heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood, as the latter blocked the main entrance to the synagogue, which was holding an event about Israeli real estate.

The budget deal, which is due to be approved on Thursday, followed intensive negotiations between Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office and lawmakers from the state Assembly and Senate. 

“Previous record highs were $50 million in 2021 and 2022, and the state has never made a multi-year allocation before,” JPAC Executive Director David Bocarsly said in an email to eJewishPhilanthropy. “This is an especially big deal given the state is facing one of its biggest budget deficits in history, and is making major cuts to other programs to balance the budget.”

JPAC noted that the budget deal, which it called a “major victor[y],” included two other priorities for the organizations: $5 million for the California Teachers Collaborative on Holocaust and Genocide Education; and a $79 million reappropriation of unspent funds from last year for San Diego Rapid Response Network, which assists asylum seekers. 

“This demonstrates a major commitment to California’s vulnerable communities, especially the Jewish community,” Bocarsly said in a public statement. “Governor Newsom and legislative leaders have been consistent allies and continue to support our community’s top priorities. We extend a special thanks to the Jewish Caucus, especially Co-Chairs Assemblymember [Jesse] Gabriel and Senator [Scott] Wiener, for championing our biggest initiatives.”

Outside Adas Torah, protesters, at times, came to blows, with one apparent anti-Israel activist wearing a keffiyeh face mask being seen spraying bear spray at pro-Israel demonstrators and a journalist. In some cases, protesters were seen using sticks and handles from protest signs and flags as weapons against one another. At least one person was arrested during the fracas, local police told the Los Angeles Times. City and state officials denounced the anti-Israel protesters for blocking access to the synagogue — Newsom decried it as “antisemitic hatred” — and condemned the resulting violence. 

Videos from the scene showed anti-Israeli demonstrators, mostly wearing masks and keffiyehs, walking through the Pico-Robertson neighborhood with Palestinian flags and signs accusing Israel of genocide, while groups of pro-Israel protesters surrounded and shouted them. In several cases, these confrontations led to pushing and shoving as police officers could be seen largely standing by, containing the violence but not directly intervening.

“Today’s violence in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood today was abhorrent, and blocking access to a place of worship is unacceptable. I’ve called on LAPD to provide additional patrols in the Pico-Robertson community as well as outside of houses of worship throughout the city,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass wrote on X. “I want to be clear that Los Angeles will not be a harbor for antisemitism and violence. Those responsible for either will be found and held accountable.”

David Suissa, the publisher and editor-in-chief of L.A.’s Jewish Journal, called the anti-Israel demonstration outside the synagogue an act of “terror.”

“Terror doesn’t mean people have to die. Terror means you intimidate and bully people. Terror means you use fear as your weapon of choice. Terror means you go after people because of who they are,” Suissa wrote.

The local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League said it was “aware” of the protests and was in contact with the LAPD about the matter.

Israeli Opposition Leader Yair Lapid reacted to the L.A. clashes, as well as the deadly attacks in Russia’s Dagestan republic in which synagogues and churchers were apparently targeted and the recent rape of a Jewish girl in France, calling for the world to condemn the “antisemitism is again raising its toxic and ugly head.”

“Anyone who does not voice their loud and unequivocal condemnation is part of the problem,” Lapid wrote.

Jewish Agency for Israel Chair Doron Almog similarly called for local governments to address the recent spate of violent antisemitic attacks that have taken place around the world in recent days.

“We firmly denounce the shocking antisemitic violence that has broken out in so many places,” Almog said in a statement. “We stand with one heart with the Jewish communities, strengthening and supporting them. I call on the authorities in these countries to act to restore the feeling of security to the Jewish communities.”