How an U.S. anti-terror program became a Jewish earmark
The legislation and the rules defining eligibility make no mention of preferring Jewish institutions, but in practice, the distribution of grants is disproportionate.
The Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School, in Chicago, put in new lights around its building and parking lot and now has a state-of-the-art video surveillance system with 12 cameras. Congregation Brith Shalom, in Bellaire, Texas, now has blast-proof doors and windows. In Baltimore, the Bais Hamedrash & Mesivta school installed a new gate to the parking lot and placed cameras throughout the building. Earlier this month, Congregation B’nai Israel of Staten Island put new shatterproof windows into its 40-year-old building.
All thanks to the United States taxpayer.
Since 2005, the Nonprofit Security Grant Program administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has provided $118 million to not-for-profit organizations to become better prepared for a terror attack. In the context of federal spending, it’s a modest effort and considered a successful one: An aide to Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, recently said that he knows of very few government programs that show such “big results with small money.”
The grants program is the pride of many Jewish communal leaders, proof of their commitment to improve security of vulnerable assets — houses of worship, schools and community centers. “The grants have been of tremendous value to this community. It is really unprecedented,” said Paul Goldenberg, national director of Secure Community Network, an organization established in 2005 to address potential communal security threats.
There’s good reason for the Jewish community to be proud. A Forward analysis of the 995 grants distributed through the national program from 2007 to 2010 found that 734, or 73.7%, went to Jewish organizations. DHS announced its grants for 2011 in late August, and here, too, Jewish groups were the big winners, with 81% of those awards.
This disproportionate distribution is no accident. Examining the grants program provides a window into Jewish organizational and political power. It is this power that allowed a small community to create and maintain a government program tailored specifically for its needs and catering almost exclusively to its members.
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