Jewish institutions will receive the majority of the federal funds allocated to New Jersey’s nonprofit organizations by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Of the $15 million allotted to 227 nonprofit organizations across the country. New Jersey received the third highest allocation, behind New York and California. Northern New Jersey Jewish organizations received more funding this year than in the three-year history of the Urban Area Security Initiative Nonprofit Security Grant Program.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it would increase New Jersey’s allocation from $834,618 last year to more than $1.6 million. Of the 26 nonprofit organizations that will receive the 2009 funding, 17, or 65 percent, are Jewish. Last year, nine of the 13 recipient organizations, or 69 percent, were Jewish. Of the just more than $1.6 million allocated to the state’s nonprofits this year, Jewish organizations will receive $1,053,474.
“We’re very pleased with the fact that this year they have doubled the money,” said Richard L. CaÃ±as, director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security & Preparedness. “As long as we can show that these programs are sustainable, I think we’ll continue to receive support from the administration.”
According to DHS guidelines, applicants must demonstrate that they maintain a site with symbolic value; have a role in responding to or recovering from a terrorist attack; have vulnerabilities to attack; have been previously targeted or are associated with a group that has been targeted.
“There’s a heightened alert against Jewish centers normally,” CaÃ±as said. “They’re more than aware of it…. They’re constantly hearing from us.”
Recipient organizations must fund 25 percent of the amount themselves. CaÃ±as is hopeful that DHS will loosen this requirement in the future. “That’s a burden for them to come up with that kind of money.”
Temple Beth Sholom of the Pascack Valley in Park Ridge, which will receive a grant of almost $40,000, faces a challenge to the way the shul has operated for more than 85 years. “All that time we’ve had an open-door policy,” said incoming president Jan Seiffer. “As of late, it’s been a little bit disconcerting for people in the office who don’t necessarily know who’s coming or what they’re here for.”
The grant, he said, would go toward installing cameras, intercoms, and buzzer systems on the doors. He expected the upgrades to be completed by the end of the summer.
“I’ve seen organizations that have made major hardening efforts after 9/11,” he said. “Bulletproof glass, security personnel…. It’s almost frightening to see how far the world has come to require Jewish organizations to take these precautions.”
Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford will receive a grant for the second year in a row.
“We are thrilled to receive the Homeland Security grant allocation of $75,000,” said Ruth Gafni, SSDS’s head of school. “We were able to upgrade our security system – implementing cameras and computer monitors throughout the school – with last year’s grant. We are looking to implement a second phase next year with this new allocation.”
At the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston, which will receive a grant of $75,000, plans include adding Jersey barriers and upgrading camera systems. Michael Grad, the school’s executive director, said being prepared can help Jewish organizations become less attractive targets.
“The prosecutor’s office had told us that in Los Angeles when they attacked the JCC, they went to a few other places prior and saw a guard,” he said. “They were looking for a target that had nothing.”
Organizations should not wait to make expensive upgrades, though, said Etzion Neuer, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s New Jersey office. He cited several low-cost upgrades, such as changing locks, trimming exterior hedges, and using ushers during services.
“A number of organizations feel that the only way they can become more secure is through funding,” he said. “There’s no question that funding for infrastructure can play a critical role, but there are many low-cost security measures organizations can take and far too few are bothering to do that.”
Added Seiffer of Beth Sholom, “Unfortunately, I think that the day of the extremist is going to be with us for a long time.”