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As Jews increasingly fear simply attending synagogues amid escalating antisemitic incidents, UJA-Federation of New York today announced the creation of an initial $250,000 fund at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) to implement a program for providing security enhancement packages to at least 50 small synagogues — also known as shtiebels — in Brooklyn. The synagogues, in Midwood, Kensington, Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Borough Park, and Flatbush, have a capacity of fewer than 200 people and little or no staff.

The program, to be run by the Community Security Initiative (CSI) — a joint initiative of UJA-Federation and JCRC-NY — closes a crucial gap in funding that often leaves out smaller synagogues from accessing funding from government or other sources for physical security enhancements. The new security enhancement packages can include the installation of new doors, locks, and video cameras, and will be followed by active shooter and access control training for staff or key congregants.

“No synagogue should be left without proper security measures just because they lack access to necessary funding,” said Eric S. Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York. “Whether praying in the largest shul in Manhattan or the smallest shtiebel in Brooklyn, every Jew deserves the right to worship in peace and security.”

“Unfortunately, since 2018, at synagogues in Pittsburgh; Poway; Monsey; and Halle, Germany, access control and keeping threats from being able to enter our houses of worship has meant the difference between life and death for congregants,” said Mitchell D. Silber, executive director of the Community Security Initiative. “This program will fortify and protect some of our most vulnerable locations and communities.”

There are approximately 250 small synagogues in Brooklyn, and most do not have basic security measures in place to protect against increased threats that Jewish institutions are confronting. The NYPD hate crimes unit reported 22 hate crimes against Jewish people so far this year, compared to eight in the same time period last year.

Small synagogues are left without security funding for many reasons, but notably they are often unable to access funding from federal grants, such as from the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, because they lack staff that can manage the arduous grant application process. The new fund from UJA-Federation at JCRC-NY is intended to bridge this funding gap for smaller synagogues and offer significant improvements to basic security infrastructure and overall safety. The physical upgrades and trainings will be coordinated in partnership with community groups, including Agudath Israel of America, Boro Park Jewish Community Council, Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, and Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush, as well as neighborhood civilian patrols.

“Unfortunately, criminals who hate do not distinguish between small or large houses of worship,” said Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein. “They will seize any opportunity to wreak havoc, no matter the size or type of synagogue. That’s why security is imperative in every single house of worship. I am thankful and applaud UJA-Federation for this initiative to provide security at our smaller local synagogues, and I strongly encourage all our shuls to take advantage of this vital program.”

“Agudath Israel appreciates UJA-Federation making resources available at JCRC-NY to enhance the security of our precious botei knessios and botei medroshos,” said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America. “With the understanding that Hashem provides our ultimate protection, we must do all that is in our power as well, and Agudath Israel is pleased to do its part by assisting with implementation and spreading to its constituent congregations.”

Synagogues seeking funding and training can apply online at jcrcny.org/smallshuls. The Community Security Initiative (CSI) will review and process applications and begin to schedule visits by a security consultant. Once the enhancements are complete, CSI will provide training regarding access control and active threat.

This effort builds on CSI’s ongoing work to improve the physical security of the approximately 2,000 Jewish institutions in the New York area. Over the last year alone, CSI conducted 135 physical security assessments at local Jewish institutions and helped guide 177 organizations to secure $27 million in federal nonprofit security grants, almost 30% of the Department of Homeland Security’s national funds for urban areas. And CSI has provided support to nearly 1,000 local institutions, from incidence response to security training.

About UJA-Federation of New York

Working with a network of hundreds of nonprofits, UJA extends its reach from New York to Israel to nearly 70 other countries around the world, touching the lives of 4.5 million people each year. Every year, UJA allocates approximately $150 million in grants. In addition, to date, UJA has allocated nearly $70 million in emergency funds to help respond to the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Aid has supported New Yorkers facing food insecurity, UJA partner organizations providing essential health and human services to New Yorkers, Jewish Community Centers, low-income students, single parents, and ensuring dignified Jewish burials. For more information, please visit ujafedny.org

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Avrumy Schwartz

Author Avrumy Schwartz

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