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2018-03-23 digital edition

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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 © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


March 23, 2018  RSS feed
World News

Text: T T T

Spending bill has big boost for Jewish groups seeking security funds, approves Taylor Force Act

By RON KAMPEAS JTA news service

WASHINGTON – An omnibus spending bill approved by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump more than doubles spending for security grants that have been overwhelmingly tapped by Jewish institutions.

The $1.3 trillion bill includes $60 million for the security grants, up from $25 million last year. More than 90 percent of the grants have been used to harden security at Jewish institutions since the nonprofit security grant program was launched in 2005.

Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, one of the lead advocates for the grants, said a spike in threats on Jewish institutions over the last year drove the increase.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. in 2017 increased by 43 percent over 2016, not including a spate of bomb threats carried out against Jewish institutions by a Jewish man in Israel.

Of the $60 million, $10 million for the first time will go to areas outside major metropolitan areas. Diament said that will allow Jewish institutions outside such designated areas to apply for the funds. He named Monsey, in upstate New York, as an example of an area with a high (Orthodox) Jewish concentration that until now has not been able to access the existing program.

Also advocating for the security grants over the years were the Jewish Federations of North America and Agudath Israel of North America.

The bill also includes $175 million over the next 10 years to improve security at schools, a provision that was accelerated after the deadly school shooting in Parkland last month. The bill will fund training in violence prevention, police-school coordination and crisis intervention, and will be extended to private and parochial schools as well as public schools. (The new Florida budget also increases the amount for security grants to Jewish day schools, see story, page 4)

JFNA praised the inclusion in the omnibus bill of $5 million for the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program, double the amount of previous years. The program partners with Jewish institutions to deliver assistance to elderly Holocaust survivors.

“There are approximately 100,000 Holocaust survivors living in the United States today, with an estimated 30,000 living in poverty,” said William Daroff, the Washington director of JFNA, in a statement. “By doubling funding levels to $5 million, the program now will be able to provide immediate support to ensure that Holocaust survivors are able to live in dignity and comfort for the remainder of their lives.”

Also wrapped into the omnibus is the Taylor Force Act, which slashes funding to the Palestinians until the Palestinian Authority stops payments to Palestinians killed or arrested during attacks on Israelis. Taylor Force was an American who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv in 2016.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, a key backer of the bill, told the news website Jewish Insider that he secured U.S. House of Representatives support for the bill by preserving some humanitarian exceptions, that will allow up to $5 million for wastewater treatment and up to $500,000 for vaccinations for children.

Leading the demand for the humanitarian exceptions was Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, the leading Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and one of the staunchest defenders of Israel in the House.

Palestinian officials say that only a small portion of the targeted money goes to violent attackers, and that much of the money serves as a welfare program for Palestinians who are imprisoned by Israel, many without charges

The State Department has for years cut funds to the Palestinians commensurate with its payment to killers and their families, although it has not revealed its formula. U.S. funding for the Palestinians currently stands at about $260 million a year. None of the money targeted goes directly to the Palestinian Authority, instead funding programs run by NGOs that assist Palestinians.

Also included:

• $700 million, an increase of $100 million for U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs. Starting next year, missile defense will be rolled into the overall defense assistance package for Israel, part of a $38 billion to be delivered to Israel over ten years. “This massive investment is vital to the safety and security of Israel and will help save countless lives in the future,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY., the minority leader in the Senate, said of the missile defense spending.

• One million dollars to combat anti-Semitism abroad, in addition to existing funding for the office of the anti-Semitism monitor at the State Department. Jewish groups have expressed their concern that the Trump administration has yet to name an anti-Semitism monitor.

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