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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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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.”

 

When rabbis won’t speak about Israel

AJR panel to offer tips for starting a conversation

Ironically, what should be a unifying topic for Jews often spurs such heated discussion that rabbis tend to avoid it, said Ora Horn Prouser, executive vice president and dean of the Academy for Jewish Religion.

Dr. Prouser, who lives in Franklin Lakes and is married to Temple Emanuel of North Jersey’s Rabbi Joseph Prouser, said that she heard a lot over the summer from rabbis and other spiritual leaders. They said that they were “unable or not comfortable talking about Israel in their synagogues,” she reported.

“It didn’t come from a lack of love,” Dr. Horn said. “They’re deeply invested in Israel, and yet they felt they could not get into a conversation without deeply offending other parts of their community.”

 

Take the Shab-bus

‘Horizontal Shabbat elevator’ picks up congregants in North Bergen and Cliffside Park

You’ve been walking to synagogue every Shabbat for years. For decades.

Now your shul is closing. Well, “merging.” But all the services are taking place in the other partner in the merger, the synagogue that’s just a bit stronger than yours, that has been able to keep a rabbi on its payroll.

But that synagogue is five miles away.

Five miles is too far for a comfortable Shabbat morning stroll.

What are you to do?

 

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Initiative brings student nurses together with Holocaust survivors

Nursing is changing, according to Kathy Burke, the assistant dean in charge of nursing at Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah.

“Nurses need to be prepared to move into the community, away from the hospital,” she said. “The community is the most important care-giving site.”

To ensure that their nurses receive this training, Ramapo provides its students with a variety of clinical experiences which “will redefine the health care of the future,” Ms. Burke said.

A new initiative — conceived by Dr. Michael Riff, director of Ramapo College’s Gross Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and Leah Kaufman, director of JFS of North Jersey — brings Burke’s students together with Holocaust survivors.

“Taking care of the elderly, especially those with such a unique history, will double the impact of this experience” for her students, Ms. Burke said. “It’s [important] for this newer generation of nurses to talk with individuals who have experienced the Holocaust.”

 

‘You are not numbers. You have a name’

Tenafly JCC Holocaust commemoration highlights survivor from Tappan

When the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades marks Yom Hashoah this year, its ceremony will combine words from the past with the voices of youth. Indeed — in a twist of fate Holocaust survivors could not have foreseen — Jewish children will sing the same opera performed by children at the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

In 1942, Holocaust survivor Ela Weissberger, who lives in Tappan, N.Y., performed the role of the cat in the children’s opera “Brundibar.” The show was staged in Terezin, Czechoslovakia, as part of an effort to convince Red Cross inspectors, visiting delegations, and the world at large that nothing improper was taking place there.

“They took them to a staged area,” Ms. Weissberger said. “They were really fooled.”

On April 16, Ms. Weissberger — the last surviving member of the original cast — will share her memories as part of the JCC’s annual Yom Hashoah commemoration.

 

Evil, hope onstage in Teaneck

Yavneh students tell the story of Berga slave camp in annual Holocaust play

Glen Rock eighth-grader Shmuel Berman took on the role of murderous SS Sgt. Erwin Metz in Yavneh Academy’s recent Holocaust play about the little-known slave-labor camp at Berga in eastern Germany, where hundreds of American prisoners of war were interned along with Holocaust victims.

What was it like to portray a real-life Nazi?

“It was hard,” Shmuel said. “I had to try to get into the character of someone who was not a good person and did terrible things to people.

“I was hoping the audience saw that Erwin Metz considered himself a ‘normal’ person, yet he lied during the court scenes, claiming that he didn’t mistreat anyone. We can learn that evil could happen anywhere; it doesn’t require an evil person.”

 
 
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