Legislators support Jewish security funding

Legislators support Jewish security funding

Lori Price Abrams, a consultant to the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations.
Lori Price Abrams, a consultant to the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations.

A bill that would appropriate $3 million to beef up security at Jewish institutions and other non-profit organizations passed the State Senate’s Law and Public Safety Committee by a unanimous vote on March 6. The bill mirrors legislation passed in January by the State Assembly’s Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.

Lori Price Abrams, vice president of government relations for the public relations firm MWWPR, and a consultant to the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations, told the committee that the need for such support has become increasingly vital.

“Jewish communities at home and abroad have had to contend with increased security concerns in response to a rise in national and global anti-Semitism,” she said, noting that Jews and Jewish institutions have been targeted by international terrorist groups and homegrown violent extremists. 

The bill establishes the “New Jersey Nonprofit Security Grant Pilot Program,” which appropriates $1 million a year for each of the next three fiscal years to certain organizations “at high risk of terrorist attacks and located within designated areas of New Jersey,” according to the NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

“Recent weeks have pointed to the urgent need for this. There is a great recognition that every other day there is a cemetery desecration or a JCC bomb threat,” Price Abrams told NJJN after the hearing. Nationally, 176 incidents of bias and hate directed at the Jewish community have been reported during the last two months, according to the Secure Community Network. “There is an enduring kind of anti-Semitism that has been ignited,” she said. 

The bills are intended to cover not just Jewish and other religious institutions, but secular nonprofits as well. The Senate and the Assembly Appropriations Committee must now consider the measure, although no hearings on them have been scheduled. The Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness will perform risk assessments of each applicant’s needs to determine how grants should be allocated.

Stuart Raynor, CEO of the Leon and Toby Cooperman JCC in West Orange, illustrated the need for more protection of his and similar facilities in a letter submitted to the Senate committee.

“Many of those who participate in our programs are valuable members of vulnerable populations that cannot always provide for themselves…as well as many young children ages four and below,” he wrote. “Any support that the state can provide to help relieve this pressure would be greatly appreciated.”

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