Seeking additional money to protect synagogues and other nonprofit groups, Congressman Anthony Weiner last week was joined by a local Assembly candidate who wants similar funding on the state level.
Speaking in front of the Young Israel of Hillcrest on Thursday, Weiner noted that the Department of Homeland Security has yet to release $25 million approved this year to protect nonprofit groups such as synagogues, mosques, museums and other institutions. “New York gets a quarter of the federal funds, but until they are allocated, the museums and synagogues have to absorb the costs,” Weiner said.
Grants are capped at $100,000 per group, with most totalling between $25,000 and $75,000. Institutions that have received Homeland Security funding in the past include the New York Public Library, Red Cross and the Museum of Modern Art.
Rory Lancman, who is running for the 25th Assembly District seat being vacated by Brian McLaughlin, believes that the state should supply an equal amount of funding. “It makes sense for the state and federal government to provide extra help,” he said. “This would provide the tools necessary (for such institutions) to protect themselves.”
Money awarded to such institutions are primarily used for additional outdoor lights, alarm systems, security doors and cameras. Federal funds, Weiner said, cannot be used to hire security guards.
Noting that various cultural and religious institutions have received threats, the congressman hopes the state will provide funds to offer more protection for them.
Both men admitted that it is impossible for police to protect every synagogue and temple during religious holidays. They pointed to the 40 synagogues that are located in the Community Board 8 area alone.
“We live in a safe community but you can always work to be safer,” Weiner said.
Rabbi Richard Weiss, of the Young Israel of Hillcrest, applauded the local precinct for stepping up its patrols around the synagogue, but added: “We always have to be on the lookout. This is not just a Jewish issue.”
Rabbi Yonoson Hirtz, of the Utopia Jewish Center in Fresh Meadows, said he was visiting family in New Jersey last week and walking home from Friday services when a car passed and someone yelled out, “Hitler was right. We’re going to get you.” The rabbi added that religious institutions need to be protected.
Lancman noted that certain cities, such as New York, and certain institutions face a greater threat of terrorism. “The state and federal government have an obligation to meet that threat,” he said. “It would give institutions the resolve to protect themselves.”