One day after bomb threats to the JCC of Central New Jersey in Scotch Plains and the JCC of Middlesex County in Edison, Jacob Toporek, executive director of the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations, urged the State Legislature to expand security grants for vulnerable institutions.
“There is a clear need for initiatives to strengthen security at the state non-profits most vulnerable to attacks and threats to their security,” he said in his Jan. 19 testimony to the Assembly Homeland Security Committee.
He called the numbers of threatening incidents “frightening” and said “without preparedness there is no security.”
Bill A4253 was approved by the Assembly Homeland Security Committee by a vote of 4-0, with Republican Gregory McGuckin (D-10) abstaining. McGuckin said he agreed with the intent of the bill, but thought it should be handled through the state budget process since it includes a $1 million allocation.
The bill would authorize the appropriation of $500,000, divided into grants of up to $10,000, for non-profit organizations to hire and train security personnel in order to “reduce vulnerability to threats, attacks, and other violent acts.”
The proposal was co-authored by Assembly members Annette Quijano (D-Dist. 20), Raj Mukherji (D-Dist. 33), and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Dist. 37), and would establish a three-year security grant pilot program in the state’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
The bill now moves to the Appropriations Committee before a full Assembly vote and consideration by the State Senate.
“It is easy to imagine the safety insecurities daily challenging houses of worship, community centers, family and children services agencies, and other non-profit institutions most vulnerable in the world we live in today,” Toporek told lawmakers.
He said the Jewish community is aware that a safe environment comes with difficult choices in terms of appropriating limited funds to provide programs and services “to those who come to us with the greatest need.” And, he added, the Muslim community, like the Jewish community, is “targeted because of peoples’ biases and their faith. We are all in the same boat.”