Edited by: TJVNews.com
The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed a bill that would authorize $500 million annually for the next five years for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), to provide greater outreach and funding for the 17-year-old initiative so that synagogues, other houses of worship, day schools and other nonprofits at risk of terror attacks can improve building security.
The Nonprofit Security Grant Program Improvement Act (HR 6825) was introduced in March by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), U.S. House Homeland Security Committee chairman, and Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), ranking member, in the wake of the Jan. 15 hostage-taking at a Colleyville, Texas synagogue. More recently, an attack on a Southern California church left one person dead and five others wounded Sunday.
The legislation also directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers the NSGP, to establish an office to administer the program and increase outreach, engagement, education and technical assistance for eligible nonprofits.
The Nonprofit Security Grant Program is currently funded at $250 million, and a litany of Jewish organizations have been pressing to increase that amount to $360 million. The new legislation, as an authorization bill, may modify the existing NSGP program, but can’t guarantee the increased funding. The House and Senate Appropriations committees—and each full chamber—will determine final funding levels. Since 2005, Jewish organizations have helped spearhead the creation of the NSGP, the program has provided $849 million in grants to houses of worship and other nonprofits nationwide.
In the New York City area, it was recently reported that the Jewish Community Center of Staten Island located in the Seaview section of Staten Island, Richmond County District Attorney Michael E. McMahon together with the Staten Island Council of Jewish Organizations and the NYPD partnered to present a Security and Hostage Negotiation Training. The idea to organize this important training came about after the horrific attack in Colleyville, Texas in January 2022 at Congregation Beth Israel, where four members of the congregation were held hostage for over ten hours during a stand-off with law enforcement.
Led by Richmond County District Attorney’s Chief Investigator, David Nilsen, who is a former head of NYPD’s hostage negotiation team, the training was able to inform congregants from synagogues and houses of worship across the Island what to do should a hostage event occur here on Staten Island.
Also participating in the training was NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey, Chief Gin Yee, commanding officer, Patrol Borough Staten Island, Inspector Mark Molinari, Staten Island Chief of Detectives, David Pollock, associates executive director, and director of public policy and security, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Terence M. Byrne, Manhattan and Staten Island regional manager, Community Security Initiative, Jewish Community Relations Council, Scott Maurer, CEO and executive vice-president, COJO, Mendy Mirocznik, president, COJO, and Ari Weiss, COJO Security chairman, and coordinator Staten Island Shomrim.
The students from the Jewish Foundation School of Staten Island with the assistance of Rabbi Yaakov Wasser and Mrs. Ruth Garber presented the Colors, recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the National Anthem.
Mendy Mirocznik, President of COJO thanked Orit Lender, executive director and CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Staten Island for, “hosting this important community training and for being supportive of the community needs.” Mirocznik further stated, “words cannot express sufficient appreciation that we at COJO have for our collaborative venture with District Attorney McMahon and the NYPD in making this training on hostage taking and negotiations a reality. Our constituency requested it and the District Attorney delivered big time and came through with a helpful, useful, and hands-on practical program. We in Staten Island are confident that the District Attorney and the NYPD are taking public safety seriously and it is their number one priority. Tonight, the District Attorney took it a step further by empowering our constituents with important knowledge that can make a difference in a life-or-death situation. On behalf of COJO thank you District Attorney Michael McMahon,”
Scott Maurer, CEO and Executive Vice-President of the Staten Island Council of Jewish remarked, “that tonight’s program is a testament to COJO strong working relationship and ability in collaborating with District Attorney Michael McMahon and the NYPD. As Co-Chair of District Attorney McMahon’s Hate Crime Task Force, I am proud of the District Attorney and amazed with delight how he was able to put together such a great practical and useful program on the nuts of bolts of hostage taking and negotiation.”
He added: “I pray that we never need to use these skills, but I feel relieved that we were able to have presented this evening some helpful tips that potentially can save a life. Tonight, was just another great example showcasing COJO’s partnership with the District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD and we plan to continue in bringing Staten Island the best we can. Thank you District Attorney McMahon for making this happen.”
District Attorney McMahon commented, “I can say unequivocally that the NYPD and our office will continue to denounce, investigate, and prosecute all acts of hate when appropriate to keep all Staten Islanders safe. Thank you to Chief Investigator Nilsen for an extremely informative presentation, COJO for serving as a wonderful host and partner, and the NYPD for all you do to keep us safe each and every day.”