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Jewish groups welcome Homeland Security grants

 
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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. Cañas, 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,” Cañas said. “They’re more than aware of it…. They’re constantly hearing from us.”

Recipient organizations must fund 25 percent of the amount themselves. Cañas 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.”

 

More on: Jewish groups welcome Homeland Security grants

 
 
 

2009 N.J. Nonprofit Security Grant Program recipients

American Red Cross-Tri County Chapter (covers Union, Somerset, and Middlesex counties), $55,500

Benedictine Academy, Elizabeth, $50,028

Bergen Community Regional Blood Center, Paramus, $56,475

Beth Medrash Govoha of America, Lakewood, $75,000

Chabad Jewish Center of Greater Hillsborough Inc., $74,437

 
 
 
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A rabbi hasn’t walked into the bar ... yet

It’s not every day that a liquor license comes up for sale in Teaneck. (State licensing laws limit the number of licenses in a formula based on a town’s population.)

So when Jonathan Gellis heard that the owner of Vinny O’s in Teaneck was looking to sell the establishment, including the license, after 28 years behind the bar, he realized that only one of the more than 20 kosher restaurants in Teaneck could sell alcohol.

That seemed to be an opportunity.

Mr. Gellis is a stockbroker by day. He’s used to working in a regulated business — and the alcohol business in New Jersey is highly regulated.

Mr. Gellis grew up in Teaneck; his parents moved the family here from Brooklyn in 1975, back when the town had only one kosher restaurant. His four children attend Yeshivat Noam and the Frisch School, and he serves on the board of both institutions. He also is president of Congregation Keter Torah.

 

Where greatness lies

A memorial to Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

On July 3, 5 Tammuz, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi died. He was 89.

He inspired tens of thousands of people directly — and indirectly he inspired millions more, people who have yet to discover that the spiritual approaches they hold dear were invented and graciously shared by him.

Reb Zalman was prodigiously influential over many decades, but he was not proportionately famous. He was not always given credit for his vast learning or for his astonishing array of contributions. And he was okay with that.

The first time I saw Reb Zalman, he was on the bimah of an auditorium that held 2,000 people. His face beamed love at the congregation. I had been leading another High Holiday service, and I was able to join his congregation for the last few minutes of Rosh Hashanah morning.

 

Paying it forward

Remembering Gabby Reuveni’s generous spirit

Just a glance at the web page created in memory of Gabby Reuveni of Paramus gives some indication of the number of people she touched and — through the ongoing efforts of her family — she continues to touch.

Killed two years ago in Pennsylvania by a driver who swerved onto the shoulder of the road, where she was running, Gabby, who was 20, was “an extremely aware and kind person,” her mother, Jacqueline Reuveni, said. “We’re continuing her legacy.”

The family has undertaken both public and private “acts of kindness,” she said, from endowing scholarships to meeting local families’ medical bills.

According to her father, Michael Reuveni, Gabby — then a student at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the school’s track team — was a victim of vehicular homicide.

 

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The Holocaust as living memory soon will flicker out. Survivors who can tell their stories are growing old. Soon it will be just images, photographs, videos, written and spoken words.

The Holocaust was pure evil, the unleashing of the worst human fears and instincts. There was nothing at all good about it. But in a soul-affirming act of reversal, it now is possible, almost 70 years after it ended, to use it to teach students how to become better people.

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“Certain things are communal responsibilities,” said Michael Rogovin, president of Teaneck’s Netivot Shalom. “The eruv and the mivkah are really critical to our functioning as an Orthodox community.”

 
 
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