Jewish Press of Pinellas County

State makes funds available for local Jewish schools, Holocaust museum, Florida-Israel business program

Enhancing security at Jewish day schools in Tampa, promoting the educational mission of the Florida Holocaust Museum and encouraging new business relationships between Israeli tech companies and Florida’s hospitality industry are among state budget allocations for the 2021-22 fiscal year recently announced by Gov. Ron DeSantis

In mid-June the governor announced a list of funds earmarked to “support Florida’s Jewish Community or Israel,” and several Tampa Bay area institutions were included:

• The Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg will receive $1.35 million in funding

• The Florida-Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA), based at the Bryan Glazer Family JCC in Tampa, will receive $250,000.

• Several local Jewish schools may qualify for a share of a $4 million “Security Funding for Florida’s Jewish Day Schools” appropriation. For the first time, the state is allowing the schools to spend funds on professional security staff, as well as on physical items to improve security.

Here is a look at how the funds are expected to be spent in the Tampa Bay area.

Holocaust Museum

“Funding from the state will enhance the partnership between the museum and state education department to not only provide information for students, but to train teachers so they can better teach the lessons of the Holocaust,” said Beth Gelman, executive director at the Florida Holocaust Museum. Some of the funding, she said, will support the museum’s “second wave of tech initiatives to create relevant and high-quality Holocaust recourses for public and private school students – not just here but around the world.”

The museum has found that experiences that resonate with young people are the most memorable, she said. One example of that came from a partnership that produced a theatrical experience, “Anne and Martin.” It included diary entries from Anne Frank and letters from Martin Luther King Jr. Another virtual experience is planned during Holocaust Education Week in November, she said. The presentations give students the opportunity to interact with actors or writers, and for those who miss the live events, the museum is adding them to its library so classes can participate at another time.

Funding for FIBA

FIBA will use its appropriation to help the Florida hospitality industry get back and surpass pre-Covid levels of operation as well as address post-Covid issues by applying Israeli technology and innovation, said Jack Ross, director of impact investing and co-founder of FIBA. This process will involve surveying Florida hospitality industry companies, identifying some key problems or, as Ross referred to them, “pain points” for the industry, then solicit proposals from Israeli companies to find solutions to the problems. In the past FIBA has taken that same approach in partnership with Jabil, a St. Petersburg-based worldwide manufacturing services company, and Tampa General Hospital to address issues in their respective industries.

Since it was founded in 2016, FIBA had had a mission of recruiting Israeli tech companies to come to Tampa, where they can pitch their products or services to local investors in an effort to establish a market in the Bay area.

Jewish day school aid

In 2018 after a gunman killed 17 students at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, state lawmakers approved funding to make schools throughout the state more secure. Included in the budget was a little more than $650,000 earmarked under a new program titled “Security Funding for Jewish Day Schools.” The next year the amount for that fund was increased to $2 million, then $2.5 million was approved for 2020 and again for 2021. The money was designated for “hardening” schools from attack. For the 2020-21 school year a total of 78 schools, including four from Tampa, qualified for funds under that program. Each school received a minimum of $10,000, then additional funding on a per-student basis for schools that had more than 50 enrolled. Hillel Academy of Tampa, with an enrollment of 153, received $27,313, while two JCC Preschools operated by Tampa JCCs and Federation each received $10,000. Also receiving $10,000 was Hebrew Academy in Tampa.

This year the Jewish Day School security fund was increased to $4 million. Of that sum, the state earmarked $3.5 million for professional security staff and $500,000 for tangible security items. That could be good news for Hillel Academy of Tampa and the two JCC Preschools, as those schools have been assessing fees to parents to help pay for the cost of having security staff at the schools. Now, they may be able to use state funding for that purpose.

In previous years, says Allison Oakes, head of school at Hillel Academy, the school has spent its funding for new camera systems, electronic locking systems for the entire campus, door and lock upgrades, security film for windows and doors and fencing. “The idea is target hardening, putting as many layers as we can between our kids and attackers,” Oakes said. She is hopeful future spending will be on enhancing external communications with first responders and internal communications to get the word out quickly to staff if there is a need to go on lockdown.

Alissa Fischel, chief development officer of the Tampa JCCs and Federation, said last year the money the preschools received was spent on cameras and blinds at both schools and that at the JCC Preschool South funds were also spent on a fence and a phone system update so all teachers have a phone in each classroom.

Hebrew Academy will be using last fiscal year’s $10,000 funding on fencing for the perimeter and enhancing security of exit doors. Depending on the amount of funding available for the new fiscal year that began July 1, the school may use funds for a security guard, said Sulha Dubrowski, director of the academy.

One other school that is expected to qualify for this year’s appropriation is the Tampa Bay International School, beginning its second year in operation on the Temple B’nai Israel campus in Clearwater. Headmaster Bennett Zamoff said the school has received no funds yet but if the school is approved they would like to replace and add privacy screening and improve security at points of entry and exit. As the school rents facilities from the temple, all those measures would require approval of the temple board, he said.

The school touts its Spanish immersion program but also has a Jewish education component to its curriculum, taught by a local rabbi and sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Florida’s Gulf Coast.

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