Feds Increase Aid for Nonprofits Following Threats, Vandalism

By Brenda Flanagan

“Yeah, I think they were just trying to scare us and make us afraid of terrorism,” said Malka Slatus.

Slatus is worried. She runs a daycare center with 50 kids that’s connected to Congregation Ahavas Israel of Passaic/Clifton. She vividly remembers the night last April when someone threw firecrackers at the packed synagogue as its members prayed. Slatus welcomes a $75,000 federal Homeland Security grant to harden the perimeter here.

“Alarms, better protective devices for getting in and out of the building. We are thrilled. We are so, so excited,” she said.

“The security system we’re about to install — a new video system — also guarantees our security at a much higher level. And also more secure doors, which not only secure ourselves, but also the children’s school which is just a few steps below,” Ron Yitzchok Eisenman said.

Ahavas Israel will also upgrade its video surveillance system and blast-proof its windows, including six stained glass panels in the synagogue. Overall the Department of Homeland Security awarded $4.26 million to 56 New Jersey nonprofits last year. That’s out of $20 million nationwide. The pot increases to $25 million this year, following widespread reports of bomb threats against Jewish community centers and vandalism at Jewish cemeteries. Congressman Bill Pascrell joined 110 other representatives asking the federal government to double the national grant for nonprofits to $50 million next year.

“Simply put, no one should feel unsafe in a place of worship or a community center. I will not rest until that goal is achieved,” Pascrell said.

While local communities look to enhance security, the Trump administration went to court over national security in appealing a stay on its travel ban affecting people from six mostly-Muslim nations.

Protests erupted at airports across the country when the first travel ban kicked in on Jan. 27. A federal judge in Washington blocked that ban and federal judges in Virginia and Hawaii put the president’s revised travel ban on hold in March. The full 4th Circuit in Richmond heard appeals today and live streamed arguments. Judges asked why they couldn’t consider statements by the president and his press secretary as evidence of anti-Muslim taint.

“Spicer, President Trump yesterday continued to deliver on campaign promises. Is there anything other than willful blindness that would prevent us from getting behind those statements?” asked Judge Floyd.

“Yes, Judge Floyd. Respect for the head of a coordinate branch and the presumption that officials act legally,” said Jeff Wall, acting solicitor general of the U.S. Department of Justice.

“What if he says he’s sorry everyday for a year? Would that do it for you?” Floyd asked.

“No, your honor. Right, here’s the issue, your honor. The establishment clause prohibits targeting and denigrating a religion,” said Omar Jadwat, senior attorney for the ACLU.

No decision’s due today and the case is likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.