Chicago Jewish Community Awarded DHS Security Grants
By Ellen Cannon
On August 29th the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) announced that of the 308 grants awarded through the Urban Areas Security Initiative Non Profit Security Grant Program, 251 are being allocated to Jewish groups totaling $19.6 million dollars. Among the faith based communal institutions in urban areas to be funded, Chicago ranked high on the list. Other faith based nonprofit cities with large Jewish populations that were funded include Seattle, New York, and Phoenix.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Nonprofit Security Program (NPSG) aims at promoting security related preparedness planning and training. According to JFNA, funding can go for video surveillance, blast proof windows; reinforcement of doors, locks and gates; and other security related equipment. (“JFNA, “Jewish Groups Awarded Nonprofit Security Grants).
In 2005, the U.S. Congress established the Non Profit Security Grant Program at the request of the Jewish Federations, the Orthodox Union and other leading nonprofit organizations and institutions. Propelling this grant system was the recognition based on several empirical studies that growing numbers of hospitals, cultural centers, community organizations, parochial schools and houses of worship were “considered high value civilian targets by extremist groups and terror organizations.” (JFNA Briefing, 8/29/11). Since 2005, $118 million has been distributed to nonprofit organizations to promote increased preparedness and response capacities.
Among the recipients of the grants in the greater Chicago area, are Rush Medical Center, Northwestern University, Advocate Christ Medical Center; Advocate Masonic Medical Center, City Colleges of Chicago Foundational Resurrection Medical Center, Saint Francis Hospital, Saint Joseph Hospital, Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center and Sinai Health System.
Chicago Jewish institutions receiving DHS NPSG grants include Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Jewish Community Centers of Chicago, several urban and suburban synagogues including Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago, multiple city and suburban Lubavitch Institutions and several Jewish Day Schools. Of the 308 grants awarded through the program nationwide, 251 were allocated to Jewish groups. The largest grant an institution can receive is $100,000.
The wake-up call regarding preparedness, for many in the Chicago Jewish community occurred on October 29, 2010 following the discovery of U.S. bound packages aboard cargo jets that contained explosives. President Obama told the nation that authorities had “uncovered a credible terrorist threat” against the United States and that two packages had been addressed to Jewish places of worship in the Chicago area. Chicago FBI spokesman Ross Rice urged all churches, synagogues, and mosques in the Chicago area to be vigilant.” (www.huffington post.com 2010/10.29) Rabbi Michael Siegel, whose synagogue has been awarded a DHS grant, then told the Chicago Tribune, “The congregation will not accept UPS packages until we know the danger has passed. Rabbi Siegel told the press his synagogue updated its security after 9/11 including hiring off-duty police officers to monitor the building.”
Other large urban Jewish communities which received considerable funding are New York City, Baltimore, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.
According to Paul Goldenberg, Director of the Secure Community Network, “the potential for future attacks against Jews in America cannot be underestimated…Anywhere where Jews gather is a potential target.” In an interview with the Jewish Telegraph Agency, Mr. Goldenberg stated, “I think synagogues are particularly susceptible because they are considered soft targets, but my concern is the lone wolf, the most difficult to investigate. The only real mitigation we have is to make the community aware of these types of individuals and train them about what to look out for.”(curezone,com/forums/8/29/11)
Beth Young and Salvatore Caputo underscore the potential risk to the American Jewish community. They write, “The DHS conducted a two phase assessment based on investment justifications and state, local and national law enforcement reviews. The result underscores a troubling fact. The Jewish community is at risk in a way and at a level not shared by other groups.” (www.jewishreview.org)
The Jewish community, according to Paul Goldenberg, is seeking the correct balance between preparedness, security, and remaining an open and welcoming faith based community.