Good news, bad news

Good news, bad news

Jewish groups granted lion's share of area's federal security funds

The Department of Homeland Security last week announced the allocation of $19 million for 2011 to non-profit institutions deemed vulnerable to terrorist attacks. The allocations were made as part of its Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP).

With $14.9 million, or about 80 percent of the NSGP allocations, going to Jewish institutions, Jewish groups across the country received security dollars disproportionate to their numbers in the general population.

That is not necessarily the “good” news, however. The DHS makes its allocations based strictly on risk-assessment, according to Robert Goldberg, senior director, legislative affairs, for The Jewish Federations of North America, which helps Jewish organizations apply for the grants. “Really since the establishment of this program, Jewish entities have been the primary recipients of program awards based on risk assessment,” Goldberg told The Jewish Standard.

Goldberg said the NSGP program was formed as a result of efforts by the Jewish Federations of North America, specifically its Washington office, “to connect the dots on the threats to the Jewish community for decision-makers in Congress and within the Administration.”

He added, “The Orthodox Union from the start of the program has been a close and active advocate with us.”

According to the web site of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which helps to administer the NSGP, “[Fiscal year] 2011 NSGP funds were allocated based on risk analysis, effectiveness, and integration with broader state and local preparedness efforts. Each nonprofit organization was able to apply…for up to a $75,000 grant award.”

Locally, Jewish institutions received $550,000 – the lion’s share of the $700,000 in NSGP grants allocated to all Northern New Jersey non-profits. Eight area Jewish institutions qualified for the grants, said Alan Sweifach, planning and allocations director at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, who helped institutions apply for the funds.

The NSGP, which has existed since 2007, earmarks funds exclusively for physical improvements, such as security barriers, shatterproof glass windows, security cameras, upgrades to keys and locks, and other security measures, Sweifach said.

Since 2007, the DHS has awarded 36 grants through the NSGP program to 25 institutions in Northern New Jersey. “The fact we’ve received over $2.6 million since 2007 is a terrific result,” said Sweifach. “On a sad note, it shows our institutions have demonstrated they are at risk, and that’s been recognized.”

Local Jewish institutions that received NSGP funding this year are all schools and synagogues: in Teaneck, Cong. Beth Aaron, Cong. B’nai Yeshurun, and Cong. Rinat Yisrael; Gerrard Berman Day School in Oakland; Temple Emanu-El in Closter; Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge; Chabad Lubavitch on the Hudson in Fort Lee; and The Nathan Barnert Memorial Temple (Congregation B’nai Jeshurun) in Franklin Lakes.

The risk is real and the allocations demonstrate that, said Sweifach.

“We’ve been able to demonstrate Jewish organizations are at high risk, they’ve received threats, and some have had attacks,” he said.

Recent hate crimes and attempted attacks in the greater New York-New Jersey area include the 2009 attempt by four men to bomb the Riverdale Temple (a Reform synagogue) and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center (an Orthodox synagogue), and a May 2011 plot by two New York men to attack synagogues and churches. One of the men allegedly planned to dress as a chasid in order to more easily infiltrate and bomb a synagogue.

The FBI reported in 2009 that anti-Jewish crimes represented more than 70 percent of all anti-religious hate crimes, marking the 12th consecutive year that anti-Jewish bias crimes topped the list, according to Hate Crime Statistics, the FBI’s annual report, for that year.

Sweifach has helped local organizations obtain security assessments and prepare applications for the NSGP grants. Grantees, he said, have three years to spend the money, which they must lay out themselves and for which they will be reimbursed later. The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness monitors the organizations granted funding to insure that the intended improvements actually are implemented, he said.

While three of the eight institutions that received grants this year had received grants previously, DHS typically prioritizes institutions that have not yet received grants.

“They try to spread the wealth,” Sweifach said.

New Jersey, specifically the Newark-Jersey City region, which includes sections of Northern New Jersey, received the fifth highest allocation of NSGP funds this year, suggesting DHS assessed it as one of the nation’s highest risk areas, according to Goldberg.

While the DHS does not publicly share its risk-assessment process in awarding the grants, recent news reports indicate “lone wolf” terrorists – or disgruntled individuals acting independently – top the list of threats.

“Many high profile ‘lone wolf’ cases have targeted the Jewish community,” Sweifach said.

Institutions that are not specifically Jewish receiving NSGP grants in this area were mostly hospitals and included Holy Name Medical Center, according to Goldberg.

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