Local shuls awarded security grants
Federal funds flow to synagogues targeted last winter in Rutherford, Hackensack
Two synagogues attacked last winter are among the eight local recipients of nearly $10 million awarded nationwide by the Department of Homeland Security to organizations and facilities considered at high risk of terrorist attacks.
The funding, announced last Friday, came from the DHS’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which aids nonprofit organizations that are at risk of terrorist threats and helps those organizations coordinate with broader security initiatives. DHA allocates the funds in response to grant proposals; across the nation, Jewish organizations received 97 percent of available funds.
In the last two years, program funding has been cut from $20 million. But the consequences have been borne largely by non-Jewish institutions, which in the past had received as much as $6 million from the program.
Congregation Beth El in Rutherford, which had been firebombed, received a $30,000 grant. Temple Beth El of Hackensack, which was defaced by graffiti, received $55,000.
At Beth El, the grant proposal reflected the results of a security assessment performed by Bill Stallone, Bergen County’s risk mitigation planner.
“He came in and came up with a list of things we can work on to harden our security,” said the congregation’s rabbi, Nosson Schuman.
Schuman declined to detail the planned security upgrades; he did not want to risk highlighting present weaknesses. He said that the congregation was able to install security cameras six weeks after the January attack. A website soliciting donations brought in $11,000, which came from institutional donors — both synagogues and churches — and individual donors, both Jews and non-Jews.
This round of funding was the program’s seventh allocation since its creation. The program has distributed a total of $128 million, according to the Jewish Federations of North America, which has made support for the program a legislative priority.
Since 2007, 33 local institutions have received a total of 44 grants for a total of $3.1 million, according to Alan Sweifach, managing director of community planning at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. This year, the eight recipients shared $479,550.
This year, all the local recipients are synagogues. Past recipients have included area day schools, the Jewish Family Service, and the federation itself.
Sweifach worked with 40 local institutions to help them prepare the grants. He wrote a 15-page guide to the process, aimed at “the members of the shul who were given the task of writing the grant,” who generally are not professional or experienced grant writers.
For David Goodman, president of the Jewish federation, Sweifach’s success in helping local organizations secure grants is evidence that gifts to the federation have an “exponential effect by enabling us to bring almost a half million dollars in these homeland security grants.”
Goodman, a member of Jewish Community Center of Paramus, noted how the security systems in place at that congregation were helpful in apprehending Anthony Graziano, charged with throwing the firebombs at the Rutherford synagogue.
“One of the ways they were able to catch this perpetrator is because the JCC in Paramus had a video surveillance system already. They were able to photograph the person who did this walking around on the property,” Goodman said.
Police found incendiary devices in the woods behind the Paramus synagogue.
“It’s great to know there will be other institutions in our community that will now be able to protect themselves with additional security,” Goodman said.
Schuman praised the federation’s Sweifach for assisting with the grants; preparing them was difficult for synagogue members, he said, so the help was crucial.
He also praised Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. “When we ran into some difficulties, we called him up. His office did some research for us, and they really helped us out tremendously,” he said.
Pascrell was among the members of Congress who urged U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to maintain federal funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program.