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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2017 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

June 16, 2017  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

State funds better security for 35 Jewish day schools


Gov. Rick Scott greets students at Orlando Torah Academy, where he touted the new appropriation for Jewish school security. The day school was the target of bomb threats earlier this year. Gov. Rick Scott greets students at Orlando Torah Academy, where he touted the new appropriation for Jewish school security. The day school was the target of bomb threats earlier this year. For first time, the recently approved state 2017-18 budget includes a $654,000 appropriation to enhance security at 35 Jewish day schools, including two in Tampa.

Teach Florida, a project of the Orthodox Union, helped draft the legislation and advocated strongly for its passage. Officials in the organization declared the appropriation as a victory for Jewish children.

“Security is a public good, and we appreciate that Florida’s elected officials have stepped up to help safeguard our students,” said Mimi Jankovits, executive director of Teach Florida.

The funding is available to Jewish day schools serving children in kindergarten through high school, she said.

The two Tampa schools that are eligible to receive funds for enhanced security are Hillel Academy at 2020 W. Fletcher Ave., and Hebrew Academy at 14908 Pennington Road.

The funding comes after a sharp rise in bomb threats to Jewish schools and other Jewish institutions this year, including numerous attributed to an Israeli teen who was arrested this spring.

Gov. Rick Scott touted the funding when he visited Brauser Maimonides Academy in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando Torah Academy on June 6.

“This is just the beginning. I will work for all our children to be safe, public or nonpublic. If anybody is the subject of threats, we should look into how to protect them. We have to work on keeping everyone safe,” Gov. Scott said.

A Miami Herald report noted that Kara Gross, ACLU of Florida’s legislative counsel, said the budget item raises constitutional questions. “The fact that the funding singles out one religion raises serious concerns about unconstitutional discrimination, whether intentional or not,” the Herald reported she said in a written statement. “Many groups are seeing a spike in violent threats in recent months – not only Jews, but also Muslims, Sikhs and immigrants. If the state sees responding to these threats as a priority public safety issue, funding should be available to all similarly targeted groups.”

The funds are to be used for video cameras, fences, bullet-proof glass, alarm systems and other equipment, but just how much would go to each school had not been determined, according to the Herald report.

World Religion News reported that Jankovits explained that in the future the goal would be to expand funding to other private schools, but the bill was limited to Jewish schools this year because of the rise in security threats. “We had an immediate need we wanted to address,” she said, according to that paper’s report.

“Next year, children in Jewish day schools across Florida will be safer and more secure,” said Dr. Allan Jacob, chairman of Teach Florida.


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