No reason for pride

No reason for pride

We do not normally criticize another newspaper for its reporting, and we did not intend to do so in the case of the Forward’s report last September on the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program. It is a program that the newspaper in an accompanying editorial said came “at great cost to constitutional principle and communal fairness.” A free flow of information is arguably the single most important element in sustaining freedom.

While we celebrate the right to a free press, however, there is an exception to every rule. In this case, the exception came last Friday (Feb. 24) when the newspaper, in its daily e-mail edition, bragged in a headline, “‘Jewish Earmark’ Program Faces Big Cuts: Homeland Security Revamps Program After Forward Story.” The newspaper was quite pleased that its September story apparently played a role in reducing the chances that Jewish institutions would qualify for the security grants.

The body of the article continued this self-congratulation. “The Nonprofit Security Grant Program…, according to an analysis of the program published by the Forward, essentially operated like a ‘Jewish earmark’….The Forward analysis pointed to two key provisions that provided Jewish applicants with a significant advantage…[including that] a vague definition of terror threats took into account threats overseas in calculating the risk level of an institution.

“The new guidelines basically do away with both of these provisions.”

In other words, if Iran, say, attacks synagogues in London, or Paris, or Toronto, synagogues here in the United States will not be able to use that as evidence that they may be next. Is this an achievement of which a Jewish newspaper should be proud?

As it is, the original article was an unnecessary piece of “enterprise journalism.” It was no secret that Jewish institutions were benefiting at disproportionately high rates. We reported in our Sept. 2 issue, ahead of The Forward’s reporting, that “$14.9 million, or about 80 percent of the NSGP allocations, [was] going to Jewish institutions.” We even quoted a national communal official as saying that “Jewish entities have been the primary recipients of program awards based on risk assessment.”

That such a risk exists also is no secret. When was the last time anyone sent bombs from Yemen to churches in Chicago? How many plots to bomb a cathedral have police broken up in recent years? It was a JCC that Iran bombed in Argentina in 1994, not a YMCA.

The need is real. The changes to the NSGP should prompt sadness, not glee.