Union Of Orthodox Jewish Congregations Commends Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff For Committing to Disburse Federal Funds to Bolster Security at Synagogues and Other At-Risk Nonprofits
Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America commended Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff for stating his support for a $25 million program which awards federal funds to non-profit entities deemed to be at-risk of terrorist attack; the funds are to be used to improve the physical security of the non-profit’s facilities.
The grants program was created in 2005 when a coalition of non-profit groups (including United Jewish Communities, the United Way, YMCA, American Ass’n of Museums and many others) – of which the UOJCA was a leader – worked with U.S. Senators Arlen Specter, Barbara Mikulski and other congressional leaders to aid synagogues, community centers, schools and other entities which have been threatened by international terrorists to bolster their physical security. Last year, the $25 million was distributed to nonprofits across 18 states with much of it used to install necessary security barriers and surveillance cameras; a significant portion of the funds were granted to synagogues – a class of entities which have been attacked overseas and threatened within the United States. The UOJCA and its coalition partners worked successfully with the Senators to continue the program this year (FY ’06) at the $25 million level, but as of this month the Department of Homeland Security had yet to issue application materials and disburse the funds. A DHS spokesperson stated that DHS needed further specific threat information, not generalized threats against the Jewish community, in order to disburse the funds.
At a meeting in Washington yesterday with leaders of Agudath Israel of America, Secretary Chertoff stated that he was overruling this previously stated view and directing DHS personnel to implement the program. A DHS spokesman stated that Sec. Chertoff is “going to personally intervene and make sure that the nonprofit Homeland Security grant funds do get allocated and distributed as appropriate.”
Nathan J. Diament, public policy director for the UOJCA stated:
The Orthodox Union greatly appreciates Secretary Chertoff’s sensitivity to the current security challenges confronting our community’s institutions, including synagogues and schools alongside other non-profits, and Mr. Chertoff’s willingness to direct the resources allocated by Congress to helping our community be more secure in the face of threats. We look forward to working with DHS to get the FY’06 funds disbursed as quickly and effectively as possible and also to completing our work with congressional partners to continue this critical program next year.