Jewish groups get most Homeland Security funding

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Jewish groups get most Homeland Security funding
JTA News & Features

Senior Staff Writer

By way of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix Online

Jewish institutions will receive the majority of U.S. federal funds designated this year to help secure nonprofit organizations.

Of $24 million in grants nationwide, Jewish groups have been awarded $19.6 million.

In Phoenix, the only money that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has awarded through the Urban Areas Security Initiative Non-Profit Security Grant Program – $96,305 – will go to improve security at four free-standing Jewish day schools: The King David School, Pardes Jewish Day School, Phoenix Hebrew Academy and Jess Schwartz Jewish Community High School.

“In some of the schools, we’re making sure that they have better video equipment; in some, it’s higher fencing,” said Jane Wabnik, who wrote the successful grant proposal, explaining some of the ways the money will be used to improve security.

Wabnik, who works for the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, said the grant was initiated with “the imprimatur of Fred Zeidman and Adam Schwartz,” who are respectively the federation’s director of planning and CEO.

The idea was to let the federation, as an umbrella group, do the heavy lifting of writing security grant proposals for constituent agencies, which the schools are, Wabnik said. She stressed that the schools will receive the money, though, not the federation.

“I’m very pleased because they only gave 308 grants around the country,” she added, pointing out that the terrorist threat level in Phoenix is not considered to be as high as in port cities, such as Long Beach, Calif., where 24 of the grants were funded.

The only other grant in Arizona was $97,475 to the Jewish Community Services Center in Tucson. The maximum amount that could be awarded in any single grant was $100,000.

There were a number of criteria used to justify the grant, which supports “target hardening” against terrorist threats, she said, including a threat assessment by local law-enforcement officials, the symbolic value of the sites and how the sites might be used by the community at large in efforts to recover from an attack.

Wabnik pointed out that schools generally have been used as gathering places and temporary shelters for people displaced by disasters.

An as-yet-unscheduled meeting among Homeland Security, federation and school officials will hammer out details of the grant’s implementation, she added.

Of the 308 grants awarded through the program nationwide, 251 are being allocated to Jewish groups. Non-Jewish groups that have received funding include a variety of hospitals across the country, schools such as Northwestern University in Illinois and faith-based relief agencies such as American Muslims for Emergency and Relief in Florida.

The $24 million in total grants announced by the Department of Homeland Security last week vary in amount. The funds are used to provide everything from roadblocks to security cameras to blast-proof doors and windows at locations that could be terrorist targets.

The grants were announced a few days after representatives of the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives toured the Jewish community’s national security alert organization in Manhattan.

A presidential order created the center in March 2006 in response to the lack of coordination between the Federal Emergency Planning Agency and faith- and community-based groups that volunteered on the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Center director John Kim Cook, who took over six weeks ago, is meeting with community organizations across the country to understand how his agency can best help them take care of their own.

“Our objective is to get right in the middle of (Department of Homeland Security) policy to really work with the programs of DHS to make sure there’s not discrimination, and secondly to provide outreach to faith-based community organizations,” Cook told JTA. “We want to foster an environment that welcomes participation of these organizations. With our preparedness programs, if we touch congregations throughout the land, we would touch the majority of the people in the U.S.”

Cook’s deputy, Greg DiNapoli, joined him Sept. 25 in touring the Secure Community Network facility. Representatives from the DHS bomb-prevention squad and members of the New York Police Department were on hand as well to meet with the SCN advisory board, which comprises representatives from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Anti-Defamation League, United Jewish Communities, the New York Board of Rabbis and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

Secure Community Network director Paul Goldenberg said he believes the potential for future attacks against Jews in America cannot be underrated.

“Anywhere where Jews gather is a potential target,” he told JTA. “I think synagogues are particularly susceptible because they’re considered soft targets, but my concern is the lone wolf, the most difficult to investigate. The only real mitigation we have is to make the community aware of these types of individuals and train them about what to look out for.”

The research bears out Goldenberg’s concerns.

“DHS conducted a two-phase assessment based on investment justifications and state, local and national law enforcement review,” United Jewish Communities, the umbrella body for Jewish federations, said in a news release. “The result underscores a troubling fact: The Jewish community is at risk in a way and at a level not shared by other groups.”

After one woman was killed and five were wounded in an attack on the Jewish federation building in Seattle last year, UJC stepped up its involvement this year to ensure that the SCN program was funded and that Jewish organizations were informed how to apply for grants.

Many of the grants were awarded to organizations in the New York area. Another large concentration was in Maryland, where $900,000 will go to 19 Jewish organizations, including individual congregations and institutions such as the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Maimonides Academy of Baltimore.

Goldenberg said that despite the high level of security concerns at Jewish institutions, it is important not to “get to the point where we’re building walls around our synagogues and around our federations.”

“We have to do everything that we can to harden our locations and to make them much less appealing to people who want to do harm to our communities,” he said, “but Secure Community Network is not out there to say the sky is falling.”

Cook said he was impressed by the communication and coordination within the community that makes SCN an effective organization, and he pledged to work with SCN to offer disaster response training to the Jewish community.

“It is comprehensive training that teaches citizens how to respond to an act of terrorism, first aid, how to stay alive during a catastrophic event and help others,” Goldenberg said. “We’re formally and officially working at the highest levels to promote that training. It can save lives.”

81.67% of $24 million in “Homeland Security” funds went to Jewish groups? Jews make up approximately 2% of the US population — what’s wrong with this picture?

Is someone anticipating righteous rage as people figure out that Israel itself and Israeli sympathizers in the US had a great deal to do with 9/11/01? History suggests that Zionists have no issues with hiding behind and amongst Jews, allowing innocent people to take the arrows meant for the Zionists, bankers and corporatists.

Do you imagine that you’ll read this story on the useless evening news on your television?

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One thought on “Jewish groups get most Homeland Security funding

  1. gordonwagner says:

    Is this just a matter of nonprofits which happen to be Jewish-oriented knowing how to claim the Homeland Security money? Just being on the ball?!

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