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Federal Funds for Security

The Forward’s September 16, 2011 news story and editorial questioning the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program because it purportedly disproportionately serves Jewish institutions (and Orthodox institutions, at that), betrays several profound misunderstandings about the program’s purpose, government’s role in supporting non-profits, and the Orthodox community’s leading role in the Jewish organizational world.

The news story’s title, “How an Anti-Terror Program Became A Jewish Earmark,” suggests that something tawdry is going on because about 75% of the grants have gone to Jewish institutions. A 2010 report prepared by the state Office of Homeland Security based on legislation I authored, the “Non-Profit Homeland Preparedness Study Act,” found that 21% of terrorist attacks in the United States targeted non-profit institutions, and experience tells us that Jewish institutions are major targets. This program’s outcomes reflects that reality. Remember the outrage when small towns got federal homeland security dollars at New York City’s expense, just so the money could be distributed more “evenly?”

Another misplaced concern is about government funding for religious institutions (and the challenge in the editorial, “Crossing the Line” that Jews wouldn’t support the program if most recipient institutions were “mosques and evangelical churches”). We already pour billions of dollars into social service programs operated by religious organizations of every variety because they fill a vital role that government could not possibly fill on its own.

As taxpayers and Jews, we should be proud of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, and I am certainly proud of my role in supporting it.

Rory I. Lancman

Assembly Member, Twenty-Fifth District

New York

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