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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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Not just blah-blah-blah and pizza

Mahwah shul develops programming for pre- and post-b’nai mitzvah kids

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“I used to meet with b’nai mitzvah kids and their families twice,” he added. “Now we meet seven times in the course of a year. The last one is right before the bar mitzvah. Now I’m thinking the last one should be after the bar mitzvah. It’s a lot of time on my part, but it’s time well spent in developing a relationship with the kids and with the families.”

While these efforts are designed to connect children and their families to the congregation before the bar or bat mitzvah, the synagogue also has changed its post-b’nai mitzvah connections to the children.

 

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United Synagogue Youth convention may have eased standard … or not

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As it turns out, quite a lot. Take the word “refrain,” for example.

At its annual international convention in Atlanta this week, some 750 members of United Synagogue Youth voted to change some of the wording in the organization’s standards for international and regional leaders.

Most of the changes are clear, easily understood, and warmly welcomed. For example, the group added provisions relating to bullying and lashon hara — gossiping. Leaders should have “zero tolerance” for such behavior, the standards say.

 

French Jews face uncertain future

A look at some stories from a local leader

In the wake of the terror attacks at the Charlie Hebdo magazine office and the Hyper Cacher grocery store — a kosher market — I participated in a Jewish Agency mission to Paris.

Our delegation of Americans and Israelis arrived last week to show solidarity with the French Jewish community. We also sought to better understand the threat of heightened anti-Semitism in France (and, indirectly, elsewhere in Europe). We met with more than 40 French Jewish community leaders and activists, all of them open to sharing their concerns.

On January 7, Islamist terrorists murdered a dozen Charlie Hebdo staffers as retribution for the magazine’s cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammed. Two days later, another terrorist held a bunch of Jewish grocery shoppers hostage, killing four, which French President Francois Hollande acknowledged as an “appalling anti-Semitic act.”

 

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It was 1971, and Dr. Norman Sohn was finishing his training in Boston. He and his wife, Judith, were faced with a decision. Where would they go next? Where would they settle down?

As a newly fledged surgeon, the world was open to him. He could get a job almost anywhere. He was originally from Manhattan, and his wife was from New Rochelle, so the New York metropolitan area made sense to them.

They knew they wanted a yeshiva education for their children — Dr. Sohn had gone to the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School on Henry Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a school that combined religious and secular studies in a way that was progressive for its time — and they also wanted the luxury of choice. They didn’t want a one-school city, as Hartford and even Boston were at the time. “What really attracted me was the multiplicity of neighborhoods that were hospitable to Orthodox people,” Dr. Sohn said. “But here there were so many that if one didn’t work out, there was another.”

 

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Anyone who is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, with at least one Ashkenazi Jewish grandparent, is eligible for the testing for a modest fee of $100.

For many years the recommendations to test for the gene were based on family or personal history of breast or ovarian cancer. But a research study recently revealed that in the Ashkenazi Jewish population, the risk of harboring BRCA cancer genes is high whether or not there is a family history of breast and ovarian cancer.

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