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Standing for shul security

Bergen Congressmen kvell over homeland funds for Jewish institutions

Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton and Teaneck Township Manager Dean Kazinci listen to Congressman Josh Gottheimer.
Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton and Teaneck Township Manager Dean Kazinci listen to Congressman Josh Gottheimer.

Bergen County Jewish institutions have been awarded more than $2.3 million in security funding from the federal government. The Department of Homeland Security reported its annual Nonprofit Security Grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier this month, and the results were hailed by representatives Bill Pascrell (D-Dist. 9) and Josh Gottheimer (D-Dist. 5).

“This whole program is about fighting against anti-Semitism and hate and white supremacy and lone-wolf terror,”  Mr. Gottheimer said at a press conference he held Monday at Teaneck’s Congregation Keter Torah. “It is about protecting against anyone who seeks to harm our families. This is about making sure that our churches and our synagogues and our mosques are safe, and that religious institutions and freedom, which are so deep at the heart of who we are, are safe.”

Congregation Keter Torah received a $150,000 grant, the maximum allowed under the program. It was one of four Teaneck Orthodox congregations to receive a grant this cycle. Throughout Bergen County, 10 synagogues, five Jewish schools, and the Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Northern New Jersey received grants. Two Jewish institutions in Passaic did as well, and so did four Christian institutions in the two congressional districts.

“Let’s not bury the lede: This money can help save lives,” Mr. Pascrell said in a statement announcing the funding. “These awards will improve the safety of nonprofits and go a long way towards giving peace of mind to those across our state. Too many communities in North Jersey and across our state remain a target for anti-Semitic violence and bigoted terror.

“As these tragic threats show no sign of abating, I am pushing my colleagues in Washington to increase funds for this critical program. New Jersey is getting its fair share of federal funds because of our advocacy, and I will continue fighting for grants like this that keep our neighbors safe.”

At Monday’s press conference in Teaneck, Mr. Gottheimer said that “New Jersey has become a hotbed of hatred. Last year marked the third highest rate of anti-Semitism in New Jersey, according to the ADL. In 2020, New Jersey had the second highest incidents of anti-Semitism of any state. Hate crimes have risen to the highest number in a decade.”

Mr. Gottheimer was joined at the press conference by Teaneck’s township manager, Dean Kazinci; Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton; Josef Katz, the president of Congregation Keter Torah; Deena Seelenfreund, New Jersey regional manager from Community Security Service and head of security for Congregation Keter Torah; Nissan Clark, Congregation Rinat Yisrael’s community security service manager; Teaneck council members Karen Orgen and Keith Kaplan, and Orthodox Union representative Ben Hutt. 

“Synagogues provide a vital function for the Jewish community,” Mr. Hutt said. “Without this funding for security needs, they would have to find funds elsewhere.”

“We thank you for the grant that will allow us to practice our religion without worrying, and that our families, our children can sit and relax and not worry about the threats that surround us,” Mr. Clark said.

“We are extremely grateful to Congressman Josh Gottheimer and to Homeland Security for the funding, which enables congregants from all faiths to worship in peace without having to worry about their safety and security,” Ms. Seelenfreund said. 

She urged “all houses of worship to apply for these grants,” noting that volunteers from Community Security Service are available to help with the applications.

These grants in northern New Jersey are from a total federal allocation of $180 million. That’s up from $18 million the federal government distributed in 2011. The maximum grant an institution can get has grown similarly in the last decade, going from from $75,000 to $150,000. 

Both Mr. Pascrell and Mr. Gottheimer have advocated for consistent increases to the funding, as have the Orthodox Union and the Jewish Federations of North America.

Mr. Pascrell was the lead co-author of  an April letter to the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that asked for the funding to be doubled to $360 million for the upcoming fiscal year. Mr. Gottheimer was among the letter’s many signers.

The letter cited government warnings that domestic violent extremists and racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists “will continue to pose a lethal threat to faith-based communities, particularly the Jewish community.”

The full list of recipients in the two congressional districts is as follows:

Barnert Temple, Franklin Lakes — $150,000

Ben Porat Yosef, Paramus — $150,000

Catholic Family & Community Services (a division of the Paterson diocese) — $112,179.

Christian Health Care Center, Wyckoff — $149,600

Church of the Presentation, Upper Saddle River — $150,000

Clifton Cheder — $150,000

Community Synagogue of Tenafly and Englewood (Kehilat Kesher) — $150,000

Congregation Adas Israel, Passaic – $150,000

Congregation Ahavath Torah, Englewood — $150,000

Congregation Beth Aaron, Teaneck — $150,000

Congregation Keter Torah, Teaneck — $150,000

Congregation Rinat Yisrael, Teaneck — $150,000

Congregation Shaarai Orah, Teaneck — $150,000

Fair Lawn Jewish Center — $66,650

Jewish Community Center of Paramus/Congregation Beth Tikvah, Paramus — $137,500

Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Northern New Jersey, Teaneck — $150,000

Lubavitch on the Palisades, Tenafly — $150,000

Malankara Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church in North America, Old Tappan — $150,000

Sinai Special Needs Institute, Teaneck — $150,000

Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County, New Milford — $150,000

Yeshiva of North Jersey, River Edge — $150,000

Yeshiva Ohr Simcha, Englewood — $150,000

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