Federal and state governments granted more than $433,000 to Wisconsin’s Jewish agencies and schools in recent weeks, for safety upgrades in the wake of the 2017 threats to Jewish community centers nationwide and the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
An arrest was made in Israel regarding the threats to the Jewish community centers.
Federal grants to agencies
The Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, Yeshiva Elementary School, Milwaukee Jewish Federation and the Kohl Education Building are seeing a combined $358,000 in federal grants for security enhancements. The Kohl Education Building houses Milwaukee Jewish Day School and Bader Hillel Academy.
The awards were announced by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who tweeted, “I’m proud to have created a new program to guarantee that our community centers and nonprofits, including Jewish organizations and schools can invest in security enhancements.”
Baldwin created a new “Nonprofit Security Grant Program” that provided this funding, according to a news release. Prior to Baldwin’s efforts, nonprofits in Wisconsin were ineligible for this type of grant funding, the news release said.
The program is a terrorism prevention and preparedness initiative, providing funding for physical security enhancements and other security activities to nonprofit organizations. Grants can be used for safety upgrades, including video surveillance systems, blast resistant glass and building access controls.
Federation Director of Security and Community Properties Ari Friedman applied for the grant money for Federation and its school campus property, also working with other Jewish agency applicants. He said the $358,000 is to be used largely for “physical security enhancements,” as opposed to training. Some may be used for cyber-security upgrades.
Friedman said Director of Development and Advancement Rabbi Aryeh Borsuk of Yeshiva Elementary School, JCC Chief Operating Officer Jessie Rosen, JCC Chief Development Officer Elyse Cohn and MJDS Head of School Aaron Lippman were all instrumental in acquiring the grants.
After the 2017 threats to Jewish community centers, a local advisory board made up of people in the security field made recommendations for physical improvements. “We prioritized projects,” recalled Friedman. The grants will cover much of the group’s remaining wish list, he said, which is based on assessments in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security.
Next, Friedman said, his group is considering an initiative to train staff in the local Jewish community to stay aware and respond to crisis appropriately.
State grants to schools
In addition to the $358,000 awarded to local agencies, more than $75,000 has been awarded to local Jewish schools. The awards benefit Bader Hillel High, Torah Academy of Milwaukee and other schools.
The grants are to support programs and projects related to school violence, part of the state’s “2018 School Safety Initiative.”
Though more than $75,000 is being doled out to local Jewish institutions, far more has been awarded to other schools statewide, both private and public. Mequon-Thiensville School District, for example, was awarded $136,441 for school violence initiatives.
The state was still announcing grant recipients at press time, part of the roll-out of a $100 million Wisconsin fund for school safety.