More than a dozen local Jewish institutions will be upgrading their security with grants from the Department of Homeland Security.
The awards, announced last month, totaled $50 million and went to nonprofit institutions in 33 “designated urban areas.” Local recipients were awarded the grants as part of the region the agency calls Jersey City/Newark, which includes Highland Park, Morristown, and New Brunswick.
The federal program targets nonprofit organizations “that are at high risk of terrorist attack.” In practice, this means Jewish institutions, which received nearly 90 percent of the 63 grants given in the Jersey City/
Local recipients included six schools: Ben Porat Yosef and the Frisch School in Paramus, the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford, the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge, Yeshivat He’Atid in Teaneck, and the Sinai Schools, which has facilities in several different schools.
Rutgers Hillel also was awarded a grant.
Local synagogues that received grants include the Community Synagogue of Tenafly and Englewood and Congregation Ahavath Torah, both in Englewood; Congregation B’nai Israel of Emerson; Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck; the Fairlawn Jewish Center; the Glen Rock Jewish Center; Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck; Shomrei Torah in Wayne; Temple Emanu-El of Closter; and Temple Emanuel of Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake.
The funding is the result of a grant application process. Funds are designated for “target hardening and other physical security enhancements and activities.” Area Jewish institutions have used them for such projects as installing video security systems and protective bollards.
“These awards are important news for nonprofits across New Jersey,” Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-9th Dist.) said, in a press release announcing the awards. “Unfortunately, the rise in hate crimes has made these grants necessary. Too many communities in North Jersey remain a target for people who would seek to do harm because of someone’s beliefs.
“I have pushed my colleagues for nearly a decade to increase funds for this program. Thankfully, our calls are finally getting heeded and New Jerseyans are taking advantage.”
This year’s allocation for security grants was double the amounts given previous years, reflecting in part fears sparked by the wave of threatening phone calls sent to Jewish institutions, among them the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, in early 2017. (An Israeli Jew has been charged with making those calls. No motive has been reported, nor has the alleged perpetrator’s name been released, since he was a minor at the time the calls were made.)
“We are extremely grateful to Congressman Pascrell for helping to secure this grant for our state,” Jacob Toporek, the executive director of the N.J. State Association of Jewish Federations, said in a statement. “In New Jersey, we remain vigilant and watchful for community safety. We are thankful for congress’ attention to this very important matter.”
The Washington offices of two Jewish organizations — the Orthodox Union and the Jewish Federations of North America — have taken a lead role in pushing for the grants and helping institutions apply for them.
William Daroff, the Jewish Federations’ senior vice president for public policy, issued a statement: “Since September 11, nonprofits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been the victim of an alarming number of threats and attacks. The NSGP is helpful to deal with those threats through resources for target hardening and the integration of nonprofit preparedness activities with broader state and local preparedness efforts.”
Nathan Diament, executive director of the OU Advocacy Center, said in a statement: “We are deeply appreciative that DHS has awarded this year’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program awards. The $60 million funding level is the highest for this program since its inception. We are thankful for the leadership and support of those in Congress who have championed this program on a bipartisan basis including: Sens. Shelby, Schumer, Boozman, Hoeven, Portman, Peters, Nelson, Blunt and Van Hollen and Reps. Frelinghuysen, Lowey, McCaul, Yoder, Pascrell, Meng, Donovan and Thompson. While we wish this program were not necessary, we are grateful for the work of DHS and the support of key legislators to provide the needed security resources.”