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North Jersey Jewish organizations win big with Homeland Security grants

Twelve North Jersey day schools, synagogues, and Jewish institutions are slated to receive more than $850,000, out of $1.45 million for New Jersey non-profit organizations, for security upgrades to their facilities from the Department of Homeland Security.

DHS awarded a total of $1.78 billion across the country as part of the Homeland Security Preparedness Grant program, with $19 million going specifically toward non-profit organizations nationwide under the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Of the 20 New Jersey non-profits that received a total of $1.45 million, 19 are Jewish. In all, northern Jersey Jewish organizations received 59 percent of the total allocated for New Jersey non-profits.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of making the case that just as a Jewish agency, the agencies are at increased risks,” said Alan Sweifach, planning and allocations director at UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey. The federation guided area Jewish agencies through the application process, which Sweifach said is part of the organization’s responsibility to the Jewish community.

The federation itself received a grant for $75,000, which, Sweifach said, would be used for “enhancements to the security of the infrastructure” of UJA-NNJ’s Paramus headquarters. The building already has Jersey barriers, security cameras, and alarm systems.

This is the second NSGP award for UJA-NNJ, which received a grant in 2007.

“It’s important that our institutions be prepared,” said Bob Smolen, the former house chair of Temple Israel & JCC in Ridgewood, who handled the synagogue’s application.

Temple Israel is slated to receive a grant for $68,119, which, Smolen said, would be used to upgrade the synagogue’s entrances, lighting, and camera systems. This is Temple Israel’s first award from the program.

“We need to be as prepared as we can with our staff professionally to deal with any type of intrusion,” he said. “The better prepared we are, the stronger we are.”

The grants are not just to protect against terror attacks, said Sue Gelsey, chief operating officer of the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly. The grants are as much about general security procedures as they are about preventing terrorism, she said.

“We have thousands of members and guests here every day and it’s about safety and security,” she said. “It’s all those pieces.”

The JCC received a $100,000 grant in 2007 and a $75,000 grant this year.

This is the second award for Jewish Family Service of Bergen County & North Hudson, which received a grant in 2008 to put a fence around its Teaneck building. JFS director of operations Julye Brown praised UJA-NNJ for helping JFS through the application process. That support, she said, likely boosts Jewish institutions’ chances of receiving funding.

Jewish organizations received 253 of the 270 non-profit grants distributed nationwide, according to Jewish Federations of North America, the umbrella group for the federation system. An unnamed official in the office of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said that Jewish organizations made up a large percentage of the applicants for the non-profit grants, which accounts for the high number of recipients.

“Since Sept. 11, non-profits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been the victim of an alarming number of threats and attacks,” said William C. Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of JFNA’s Washington office, in a statement.

North Jersey Jewish institutions have traditionally fared very well since the creation of the grant program in 2005. They received $550,000 in 2007; $300,000 in 2008; and $300,000 last year. This year’s award of $858,319 raises the total to regional Jewish organizations to more than $2.5 million.

“These homeland security grants invest in the safety of our communities by providing resources for our first responders to protect and prepare for potential terrorist attacks,” said Lautenberg, who chairs the Senate’s Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, in a statement sent to The Jewish Standard.

In all, New Jersey received $67.1 million in federal money that will go toward various security and first-response programs.

JFNA has been lobbying to boost the funding available for the 2011 NSGP. Draft legislation in the Senate has allocated $20 million, a $1 million increase from this year.

“Our agencies and our schools and our JCCs are going to be more secure,” Sweifach said. “I continue to encourage all of the institutions to apply for this money.”

New Jersey organizations that received 2010 Urban Area Security Initiative Nonprofit Security Grant Program awards

Beth Medrash Govoha of America, Lakewood
B’nai Shalom Jewish Center, West Orange
Cong. Ahavas Achim, Highland Park
Jewish Center of Teaneck
Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, Tenafly
Jewish Family Service of Bergen County, Teaneck
Lubavitch Center of Essex County, West Orange
The Moriah School, Englewood
Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, River Edge
Roxbury Reform Temple, Succasunna
St. Peter’s Healthcare System, New Brunswick
Temple Beth El of Northern Valley, Closter
Temple Emanu-El, Closter
Temple Emanuel of Pascack Valley, Woodcliff Lake
Temple Israel & JCC, Ridgewood
Temple Sholom, Bridgewater
Torah Academy of Bergen County, Teaneck
UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, Paramus
Yeshivat Noam, Paramus
YM-YWHA of Union County, Union

 
 

Inside the Beltway

New Jersey’s senators last week teamed up with fellow lawmakers in sending out letters supportive of Israel to parties ranging from the German government to Republican members of Congress.

Eleven senators, led by Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), called on the German government to stop a Hamburg-based bank from doing business with an Iranian bank that supports Iran’s nuclear program.

The senators wrote to German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, urging his government to crack down on the activities of Europaisch-Iranische Handelsbank.

EIH remains one of Iran’s few access points to the European financial system.

The letter stressed that, in allowing a prominent German bank to continue doing business with Iran, the German government is undermining last summer’s long-awaited and toughest-yet European Union sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

“The sanctions passed by the EU this summer sent a strong message to Iran that we will not allow its illicit behavior and violations of Security Council resolutions to go unanswered,” the letter read. “Yet, the continued operation of EIH allows the Iranian regime to skirt the sanctions and undercut their effectiveness.”

The letter pointed out that EIH conducts transactions on behalf of Bank Mellat, “a designated supporter of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran,” which reports directly to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and is Iran’s main organ for developing nuclear technology.

The letter said that, should the German government fail to stop EIH from doing business with Iran, any German company doing business with EIH “may itself be barred from accessing the U.S. financial system. Companies that continue to conduct trade with Iran via EIH also face potential sanctions in the U.S., including restrictions on exports to the U.S. and access to U.S. capital markets.”

Also signing onto the letter were Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), John Kyl (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) teamed up with a bipartisan group of six colleagues in calling on top Republicans on House spending panels to reject Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) call to end all foreign aid, including to Israel.

During a Jan. 26 interview, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer pressed Paul as to whether his call to end “all foreign aid” included aid to Israel. Paul answered, “Yes.”

The senators’ letter, which characterized Paul’s position as “alarming,” maintained that his call to cut off aid to Israel wrongly applied the imperative to reduce spending to a situation where spending is not wasteful but crucial to the survival of an ally.

“Both Republicans and Democrats are committed to reining in the federal deficit, but assistance to Israel is not a matter of ‘pork barrel spending’ — rather, U.S. foreign aid to Israel demonstrates America’s rock-solid commitment to ensuring Israel’s right to exist,” it read. “Using Congress’s bipartisan commitment to reining in government spending as a reason to abandon Israel is unacceptable and should be immediately rejected.”

The letter also stressed that Israel’s stability is more important than ever, adding, “At a time when U.S. foreign aid is being used to strengthen our partnerships around the world, particularly in the Middle East where our relationships are more important than ever, we urge you to maintain full foreign aid funding to Israel.”

Other signers to the letter, which was sent to prominent Republicans on house spending panels, included Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

 
 
 
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