OU Advocacy Helps Secure Big Win for Jewish Community Security

With security a top concern for Jewish schools and shuls, OU Advocacy welcomed Congress’s approval of $20 million for the US Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) for fiscal year 2016. The persistent efforts by OU Advocacy, its coalition partners and Capitol Hill allies paid off, securing $7 million more than the previous year and the highest funding level for the program since 2007.

The NSGP enables religious entities and other nonprofits—including synagogues and day schools—to protect themselves from terror attacks by improving building security and preparedness training.

OU Advocacy spearheaded creation of the program along with partner organizations in the wake of 9/11. Congress first funded the NSGP in 2005, and the Department of Homeland Security has since delivered $120 million to protect many nonprofit institutions in major urban areas—with most of those funds going to Orthodox and other Jewish community institutions.

The boost in funding comes at a critical moment for the Jewish community, which faces a 20 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents across the United States and terrorist attacks targeting Jews worldwide. The need for vigilance—and the resources to pay for them—was highlighted recently by ISIS videos circulating online calling for violence against Jews at home and abroad.

Indeed, the grant program has been a crucial resource for Jewish life: Since its inception, synagogues, day schools and other Jewish communal facilities have used the grants to beef up safety through enhancements such as security cameras, metal detectors, concrete barriers, outdoor lighting, shatterproof windows and controlled entry systems.

“As terror attacks have increased in recent months —such as the killing of nine people at a Charleston, South Carolina church in June—it is clear the NSGP must be increased and expanded to protect all vulnerable communities,” OU Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament said.

“We are very thankful that the Department of Homeland Security and our Congressional supporters recognize the ongoing need to keep at-risk religious and nonprofit facilities safe and secure, but there’s more to be done,” Diament said. “All of us, regardless of our beliefs, have the right to defend our communities from those who seek to do us harm.”

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This article was featured in the Spring 2016 issue of Jewish Action.
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