Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, honors the memories of the 11 people who were killed while praying during Shabbat at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Congregation one year ago. The Orthodox Union also condemns the scourge of anti-Semitism and hatred that continue to proliferate in the United States.
“We cannot and will never forget the horror of that day,” said Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Allen Fagin. “We stand together with Pittsburgh and the rest of the nation against anti-Semitism and all other forms of hatred.”
Said Orthodox Union President Mark (Moishe) Bane, “Our synagogues and other houses of worship must be safe havens for all those who come to pray or seek sanctuary; we cannot stand for anything less.”
The Orthodox Union has been working for 15 years to strengthen security at U.S. synagogues, Jewish day schools as well as other houses of worship and nonprofits at risk of terrorist attacks through the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program it helped create in 2005. To date, the program – administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – has allocated $329 million in security grants to institutions across the country, most of them in the Jewish community.
The Orthodox Union also has successfully worked to establish and increase similar state funding programs in places such as New York, California and in Pennsylvania, where Teach PA – a project of the Orthodox Union – redoubled efforts this past year to make schools safer. That included spearheading a statewide campaign that resulted in lawmakers increasing funding to $3.2 million (from $459,000 previously) for nonpublic schools in the state’s 2019-2020 budget. Grant awards were released this week, just ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Tree of Life attack, enabling nine Jewish day schools to enhance their security. Teach PA is working to expand the program to more schools.
Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union’s executive director for public policy, has been working for the past year to increase the annual allocation for the federal program to $90 million. “In the wake of last year’s attack on the Tree of Life Congregation and a near-record number of anti-Semitic incidents this past year, we are committed to making sure more synagogues and institutions have the necessary funding to protect themselves against those who seek to do them harm,” said Diament, who sits on the DHS’s Subcommittee for the Prevention of Targeted Violence Against Faith-Based Communities.