Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – welcomed Congress’s passage, and President Trump’s approval, of four of our community’s legislative priorities in the omnibus appropriations bill that will allocate federal spending for the balance of the current fiscal year.
As contained in the text of the legislation released Wednesday evening, the omnibus contains four items the Orthodox Union has advocated for – in partnership with bipartisan leaders in Congress and coalition partners – during the past year. The items are:
- A dramatic funding increase and expansion of grants made to nonprofits to enhance their security. The Orthodox Union and its coalition partners spearheaded the creation of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (administered by DHS) in 2005. NSGP grants provide funds to nonprofits, including synagogues and parochial schools, to enhance their facilities’ security in the face of threats. Since 2005, the NSGP program has been annually funded at an average level of $20 million, with last year’s funding at $25 million. In the face of a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic threats, the Orthodox Union advocated to double NSGP funding to $50 million – and that is the funding level contained in the omnibus bill. Moreover, the bill contains an additional $10 million for nonprofit security grants for nonprofits outside of the major metropolitan areas to which NSGP grants are restricted. This significant increase was supported by many bipartisan members to whom the Orthodox Union community is grateful. Leading the effort were Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Representatives Bill Pascrell (D-N.J), Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.), John Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).
- Authorization of new federal grants for school safety improvements – with nonpublic schools included as eligible. The omnibus contains the bipartisan “STOP School Violence Act” introduced in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fl. The legislation authorizes $175 million (over the next 10 years) for the Dept. of Justice to make grants for an array of school safety improvements (such as metal detectors) and training. The Orthodox Union advocated to ensure that nonpublic schools will be eligible to receive these grants and indeed, under the provisions of the omnibus, they will be eligible. The Orthodox Union worked with the STOP Act’s lead sponsors – Senators Orrin Hatch (r-Utah) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Representatives John Rutherford (R-Fl.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fl.) on this important effort.
- Preservation of federally funded professional development programs for teachers. Title II-A of the “Every Student Succeeds Act” provides federal grants for teacher training and other professional development programs. Nonpublic school teachers have been eligible for these program and our community’s schools have benefited from them greatly. The Trump Administration proposed to eliminate this program entirely. The omnibus preserves its funding level at $2.1 billion. The Orthodox Union worked closely with Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) on this matter.
- The enactment of the Taylor Force Act which will suspend American financial aid to the Palestinian Authority so long as the PA is paying financial stipends to terrorists and their families. The Orthodox Union was one of the first organizations to endorse and press for the passage of the Taylor Force Act and has persisted in this effort for two years. The time to end the American subsidy for the Palestinian Authority of “pay for slay” is long overdue and will now be implemented with the Taylor Force Act contained in the omnibus. This bipartisan effort was led by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).
Orthodox Union Advocacy Center Executive Director Nathan Diament stated:
“Successful advocacy in Washington requires great partners and a tremendous amount of patience. We are very pleased that years of advocacy have yielded the results for our community contained in the omnibus bill. The dramatically increased security grants will make our synagogues and schools safer, the maintenance of teacher training grants will help our students succeed and the Taylor Force Act will, G-d willing, save innocent lives in Israel.”
Orthodox Union President Mark (Moishe) Bane stated:
“The Orthodox Union is deeply thankful to the many Senators and Representatives with whom we worked on these critical policy priorities. We also appreciate our coalition partners, including Agudath Israel, Jewish Federations of North America and many others. And we are proud to have been able to serve our community through our successful advocacy.”