UPDATE: President Biden signed this legislation into law Friday evening (March 11, 2022).
Today, the Orthodox Union (Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America)–the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization–applauds Congress’s passage of the omnibus appropriations package, which includes several priorities for which the Orthodox Union advocated. These include a much-needed increase for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to protect America’s synagogues and other houses of worship, as well as day schools and other nonprofits; a provision to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system to stop rocket attacks by terrorist groups; and emergency aid to Ukraine and the refugees escaping the assault by Russia’s military.
The boost for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) would bring funding for the Department of Homeland Security administered program to $250 million—an almost 40 percent increase from the past year’s $180 million funding level. The U.S. will provide $1 billion so that Israel can re-stock its Iron Dome missile defense system, which protected Israelis against more than 4,000 rockets Hamas launched against Israeli civilians last May. Additionally, the inclusion of $13.6 billion for Ukraine will help the war-ravaged country in its war against Russia and the two million people fleeing the area.
The Orthodox Union, through its Washington, D.C.-based Advocacy Center, worked closely with congressional allies and coalition partners to increase the NSGP allocation, particularly in the wake of the hostage-taking at a Colleyville, Texas synagogue – one of several major attacks in recent years against America’s Jewish community. The federal program, whose creation OU Advocacy helped spearhead in 2005, provides grants for day schools, synagogues and other houses of worship and nonprofits at risk of terror attacks to bolster building security.
The U.S. House passed the legislation Wednesday night, and the Senate on Thursday night. It heads next to President Biden for his signature.
Orthodox Union President Mark (Moishe) Bane stated:
“It is our duty and obligation as Jews to do all we can to ensure that we safeguard our community in America and around the world in this time of great need. The provisions in this federal legislation will go a long way toward protecting our communities in the United States and in Israel and will provide relief to those suffering in Ukraine. We thank our elected leaders for this important work on behalf of so many.”
Orthodox Union Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament, who also heads Washington’s OU Advocacy Center, stated:
“We are grateful to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) for working with us closely to include the much-needed funding increase for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. We are thankful to many allies in Congress for this critical funding including Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) as well as Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.).
“We also commend Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and other congressional leaders for their tireless work in ensuring Israel receives the assistance it needs to safeguard its citizens with the Iron Dome system against Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups.”
In addition to its advocacy for federal security funding such as the NSGP, the Orthodox Union, through its Teach Coalition division, also has successfully championed state-level security funding programs. In New York, for example, Teach NYS pressed for increased monies for the state’s Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes, with proposed funding at $25 million, and $45 million for Nonpublic School Safety Equipment for 2022; in Pennsylvania, in the most recent budget cycle, the state’s Nonprofit Security Grant Fund awarded $5 million to nonprofits at risk for hate crimes, thanks to advocacy by Teach PA; in New Jersey, with help from Teach NJ, the amount proposed for state NSGP funding is $2 million for 2022. In Florida, Teach FL’s push for Jewish day school security funding resulted in $4 million approved for 2021-22.
Background: Orthodox Union, Nonprofit Security Grant Program
The Orthodox Union, or Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, is the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization.
The Nonprofit Security Grant Program, administered by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, provides grants of up to $150,000 apiece to synagogues and other houses of worship as well as parochial day schools and other nonprofits at risk of terror attacks.
The funds may be used for security improvements to buildings and to hire security guards. The NSGP is currently funded at $180 million; for more than two years, OU Advocacy has called to increase Congress’s allocation for the NSGP to $360 million. Since 2005, when the OU Advocacy Center helped spearhead the creation of the NSGP, the program has provided $599 million in grants to houses of worship and other nonprofits nationwide. In 2021, more than half of organizations that applied for the NSGP were turned away due to lack of funding.