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Gelt Complex: Jewish Sites Get Grants, Big Bucks for Methane

Jewish Sites Get Grants

Jewish institutions were the primary recipients of federal grants from the Department of Homeland Security meant to help not-for-profits cope with security risks.

Out of $24 million allocated this year, synagogues, Jewish community centers and other communal institutions received $19.6 million. Of the 308 not-for-profits that were awarded the grants, 251 are Jewish. each received up to $100,000 for improving security. Vetting more than 600 requests for grants, the DHS allocated the funds to those not-for-profits that were found to be at greatest risk. Jewish institutions were ranked as being at the highest risk level.

The Reform movement opposed the use of federal funds for improving security in religious institutes and encouraged its communities not to apply for the grants. Still, among the recipients are several Reform institutions, including the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Barbara Weinstein, legislative director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said, “There are concerns regarding state-and-church separation. This is federal money going directly to religious institutions.”

United Jewish Communities and the Orthodox Union led the lobbying effort to get the federal grants approved.

William Daroff, who heads UJC’s Washington office, said he does not view the grants as posing any threat to the state-church separation, since the money is not used for religious purposes.

— Nathan Guttman


Big Bucks for Methane

An $8 million donation from New York lawyer, businessman and television personality Leon Charney is bankrolling an Israeli-American research project that, if successful, could turn the world’s energy industry on its head.

Charney — a political mover and shaker who advised then-president Jimmy Carter on the Camp David Accords and who now hosts “The Leon Charney Report,” a public affairs television program — announced that his contribution would launch a School of Marine Sciences at the University of Haifa.

The school at first will be dedicated solely to one research project in cooperation with Stanford University: seeking a way to tap frozen methane deposits trapped beneath ocean floors.

Amos Nur, a renowned Stanford geophysics professor and Haifa native who will head up the research, believes there’s about twice as much potential fuel under the ocean as there are oil, coal and natural gas on the earth’s surface — “by far the largest accumulations of hydrocarbons on earth” — if only an efficient and cost-effective way of extracting it can be found.

Charney, in a video clip accompanying the news release on his contribution, called it “one specific project which I think could turn around the world.”

“If this is a successful project, and we believe it will be… it will transform the geopolitical scene on earth because the dependence on oil will be obliterated,” said Charney, who was elected president of the University of Haifa’s board of governors in June after three years as president and chairman of the school’s fundraising arm for the United States.

— Josh Richman

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