Jewish Pittsburgh gets over $1 million in state security grants
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Jewish Pittsburgh gets over $1 million in state security grants

19 local Jewish nonprofits will be upgrading security, thanks to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency

A portion of a memorial outside the Tree of Life building in 2018 (Photo by Jim Busis)
A portion of a memorial outside the Tree of Life building in 2018 (Photo by Jim Busis)

Nineteen local Jewish organizations will receive a total of more than $1 million in security grants from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

The grants are part of Act 83, passed by the Pennsylvania legislature in 2019, which provides up to $5 million in funds for security enhancements for nonprofits that were victims of hate crimes or hate crime threats, or serves a population susceptible to hate crimes.

The total $1,052,692 for local Jewish institutions represents an almost 62% increase in funds awarded by the Commission in 2020.

The individual grants range from $5,000 to $150,000, and were awarded on a sliding, matching scale. Any funding awarded up to $25,000 is an outright grant, without any matching required; grants between $25,000 and $75,000 require a 33% match; grants between $75,000 and $150,000 require a 50% match by the organization.

The organizations in Jewish Pittsburgh that got grants are: The Aleph Institute; Beth El Congregation of the South Hills; Beth Hamedrash Hagadol-Beth Jacob Cemetery; Beth Samuel Jewish Center; Congregation Beth Shalom; B’nai Emunoh Chabad; Temple B’nai Israel; Chabad of the South Hills; The Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh; Jewish Association on Aging; Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh; Lubavitch Center; National Council of Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section; The New Riverview; Temple Ohav Shalom; Congregation Poale Zedeck; Shaare Torah Congregation; Tree of Life Congregation; Tzohar Seminary; Yeshivath Achei Tmimim of Pittsburgh (Yeshiva Schools).

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh worked with state Rep. Dan Frankel (District 23) and state Sen. Jay Costa (District 43) after the massacre at the Tree of Life building to develop the grant program, said Shawn Brokos, the Federation’s director of community security.

“We’re really grateful to the elected officials who pushed this through and made it happen,” she said.

Federation assisted the local nonprofits with security assessments, grant writing workshops and seminars, keeping the February application deadline on their radar, Brokos said.

Rabbi Mendel Rosenblum, of Chabad of the South Hills, participated in a Federation program that enabled him to hire a professional grant writer to assist with the application.

The assistance paid off. Last year, Chabad of the South Hills was denied funding, but this year it was awarded a nonmatching grant for security upgrades related to a specific project.

The rabbi intends to continue to apply for grants during the life of the program.

“Each year we’ll hopefully do some sort of security enhancement,” Rosenblum said.

The Jewish Association on Aging received two grants — one for The New Riverview apartments.

The JAA appreciates the support given by the Federation and appreciates the PCCD for providing the funds, said Deborah Winn-Horvitz, the JAA’s president and CEO.

“All of the JAA’s residents and on-site clients will benefit from this, including residents of The New Riverview, Ahava Memory Care, Weinberg Terrace, Weinberg Village, as well as our outpatient therapy and Anathan Club members,” she said. The JAA intends to use a major portion of the funds to upgrade its 24-hour-a-day monitored security systems.

“This will give us an additional very basic but important tool in our arsenal to maintain campus safety,” Winn-Horvitz said.

Tree of Life has plans to renovate its facility on the corner of Wilkins and Shady avenues, the site of the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history. The new funding will be used for security needs as part of the rebuild, according to Barb Feige, the congregation’s executive director.

“It’s part of a larger project to make the building a prayerful place again and for making it something more than a prayerful place,” she said. “What we’re going to be doing at the site is more than just a simple return. It’s a response to 10/27. It’s a vision to be a place of hope and remembrance and education. In the nitty gritty, you apply for these grants. That’s the way you make hope and remembrance and education happen.”

State grants were also awarded to many local non-Jewish organizations, Brokos noted. Statewide, more than $5 million in funds was awarded to 130 institutions.

Last year, pre-COVID, Federation invited other faith-based nonprofits for a workshop, Brokos said. Unable to meet in person this year, Federation provided written guidance and suggestions to the organizations, as well as encouragement to apply for the grants.

The fight against hate is “a community-wide effort,” she said.

Costa, in a prepared statement, stressed that “hate in all its forms is wrong and dangerous,” and said he is pleased to see the funding coming to Allegheny County for “important programs.”

Frankel agreed.

“The people of Pittsburgh should be able to socialize, worship and build community without worrying about their safety,” Frankel said in a prepared statement. “The grants help give our friends and neighbors a sense of security while we fight to strengthen this state’s antiquated laws relating to crimes targeting vulnerable groups.”

The funding provided by the PCCD grants can be used for a variety of security enhancements, including security planning, equipment, training, threat assessment and trained canines.

For a complete list of organizations awarded grants, and amounts awarded, visit pccd.pa.gov. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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