The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization representing nearly 1,000 synagogues – applauded the United States Senate for today approving an amendment to the homeland security appropriations bill which will provide $50 million for grants to at-risk non-profit institutions to improve their physical security in the face of terrorist threats.
One year ago, the UOJCA joined with a coalition of America’s leading non-profit organizations (including, among others, United Jewish Communities, American Jewish Congress, the Red Cross and the United Way) and members of the U.S. Congress to develop and introduce legislation which would provide financial aid to non-profit institutions at risk of terrorist attack. The risk to such institutions since 9/11 is clear. Former CIA Director Tenet and FBI Director Mueller have publicly stated that al Qaeda has turned its focus to “soft targets” such as schools, universities and houses of worship. Of particular concern to the UOJCA, are the deadly attacks upon synagogues which have been perpetrated in Istanbul and Tunisia.
While stand alone legislation (S.2275) to address this concern has been introduced and passed committee’s in both the Senate and House, the UOJCA and its coalition partners were concerned that this critical need would not be addressed prior to Congress’ adjournment. Thus, the coalition worked intensively with Senators Specter (R-PA) and Mikulski (D-MD) to develop an approach which would address this critical need through the appropriations process. Thus, an amendment was introduced and accepted this morning by unanimous consent appropriating $50 million for grants to secure at-risk non-profits. The amendment’s principal sponsors were Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Senate Majority Leader Frist (R-TN) as well as Senators Baucus (D-MT), Cochran (R-MS) and Daschle (D-SD) played critical roles in securing the adoption of this amendment. Senators Clinton (D-NY), Schumer (D-NY), Santorum (R-PA) and Brownback (R-KS) also played key roles in this process.
UOJCA President Harvey Blitz stated, in reaction to the amendment’s adoption that “the American Jewish community deeply appreciates the Senate’s recognition of the current security challenges confronting our community’s institutions, including synagogues and schools alongside other non-profits, and the Senate’s willingness to devote real resources to helping our community be more secure in the face of possible threats.”
UOJCA Director of Public Policy Nathan Diament stated: “Our community owes a special thanks to the entire U.S. Senate, but particularly Senators Frist, Daschle, Specter, Mikulski, Santorum, Baucus, Cochran, Clinton, Brownback and Schumer.