Suzanne Russell, mycentraljersey.com
Following bomb threats at Jewish community centers across the country, including two in Central Jersey, the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center is calling on the New Jersey Legislature to pass a bill allocating security funds for houses of worship, synagogues and nonprofits.
The Nonprofit Security Grant Pilot Program (A-4253) has been introduced by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-20th District, chair of the Assembly Homeland Security Committee, and colleagues Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-37th District, and Assemblyman Mukherji's, D-33rd District.
The bill was approved Thursday by the Assembly Homeland Security and Preparedness Committee, according to Shane Derris, Quijano's chief of staff, who added that the bill is being positioned to go to the governor for approval this year.
Quijano's district includes Elizabeth, the city where the father of alleged New Jersey and New York bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahimi prays at a local mosque that was concerned about backlash.
If passed, the legislation would provide up to a $10,000 state grant per institution eligible to receive a Federal Homeland Security Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) award. The funding would be used to hire security personnel, like official officers, special officers or a security company, at critical junctures throughout the year. The officers would serve to help in evacuations, provide protection in an emergency and act as a deterrent, according to Derris.
He said the bill has received support from Jewish, Christian and Muslim organizations.
Funding through the $3 million program would be allotted in three equal installments totaling up to $1 million annually.
On Wednesday, Jewish community centers in Edison and Scotch Plains were among nearly 30 centers nationally targeted by bomb threats that forced their buildings to be evacuated and searched by police. No explosive devices were uncovered.
The Orthodox Union Advocacy Center worked to pass the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program in 2005 to help religious institutions and other nonprofits make their buildings more secure, but the federal funds cannot be used to hire security personnel. That funding is instead used for things like lighting and cameras, Derris said.
“The bomb threats at Jewish institutions this month underscore the unique security threats faced by religious organizations and nonprofits,” said Nathan Diament, Orthodox Union executive director for public policy. “These institutions serve tens of thousands of young children and senior citizens daily who had to be evacuated following the threats. We are very grateful to Assemblywoman Annette Quijano and her colleagues for their efforts in introducing this legislation and urge the New Jersey Legislature to pass this bill.”
Staff Writer Suzanne Russell: 732-565-7335; [email protected]