More homeland security money for Jewish institutions?

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Some Jewish leaders were initially uneasy about pressing for homeland security money from the federal government to protect Jewish schools, synagogues and other institutions, but that unease has largely evaporated – in part because of the incredible success of the effort to make sure Jewish groups get their fair share – and then  some – of the money, in part because of recent incidents involving such institutions.

Thanks mostly to the Orthodox Union and the United Jewish Communities,  more than “60 percent of $15 million in security grants released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will go to Jewish-affiliated groups,” according to a recent JTA report

That means, the news service reported, that “144 of the 227 nonprofits that received awards” this year are Jewish institutions.

Now, the two groups are pressing for more.  The Homeland Security Appropriations Bill is currently working its way through Congress, and the Senate version includes a significant increase in the total going to help protect nonprofits.

Wanna bet that a good proportion of any increase will end up buying security cameras and hiring guards for Jewish institutions?

OU political director Nathan Diament attributes the increase to “our champions in the Senate, such as  Senators Barbara Mikulski, Arlen Specter, Chuck Schumer, and Kirsten Gillibrand.”  Capitol Hill insiders attribute it to aggressive, really effective lobbying.

If there were church-state and community relations doubts about a prosperous Jewish community using its clout to get federal dollars to protect its religious institutions, they’ve mostly faded in the wake of the alarming rise in far-right extremism and violence, the foiled synagogue bomb plot in Riverdale and the shootings at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Musueum by a longtime neo-nazi.

Mideast-related terror remains a threat, but an even more immediate threat may be the far-right surge reported by ADL and other groups.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.