Pepper Pike Police

A Pepper Pike police car provides security outside of Park Synagogue East.

Ohio nonprofits stand to gain a funding boost for security and safety needs after the state’s operating budget passed the Ohio Senate June 20.

Next week, there will be a conference committee through which the Ohio House and Senate will finalize a budget bill to send to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. The deadline to pass the state budget is June 30.  

Substitute House Bill 166 includes $8.5 million in nonprofit security and safety grants, brought about by the rise of terror attacks and attempted attacks on houses of worship and both faith- and cause-based nonprofits. 

The Ohio House passed a version of the budget that included $2.75 million per year for the next two years for target hardening grants for nonprofits and the Ohio Senate added $250,000 per year for target hardening for the next two years. The Senate also added $1.25 million per year so nonprofits can hire armed security personnel. 

Additionally, the Senate maintained funding of the Ohio-Israel Agricultural and Cleantech Initiative at $250,000 per year for the next two years. The budget bill has bipartisan support and is expected to pass.

The grants were praised by members of several Jewish organizations throughout Ohio, including members of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, the Jewish Community Board of Akron, JewishColumbus and Ohio Jewish Communities.

“This kind of proactive legislation is what will help us leverage our philanthropic dollars to keep our communities safe,” said Amy R. Kaplan, vice president of external affairs for the Jewish Federation of Cleveland in Beachwood, in a statement. 

“Security is one of our most pressing needs today, and as we greatly increase our spending to keep our institutions safe, the two most vital areas are hardening the physical campus and in deploying armed personnel. We here are especially grateful to our area legislators for stepping up. Our thanks to Senate finance chairman Matt Dolan, Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko and Sen. Nickie Antonio, as well as State Reps. Janine Boyd and Kent Smith. We likewise urge the retention of the full funding in the final budget bill.”

Joel Marcovitch, CEO of JewishColumbus, said he thought the grants will be a “game-changer” in regards to meeting the Jewish community’s security needs.

“We as JewishColumbus took the step that we needed to fund security for our Jewish institutions in town,” said Marcovitch, referring to the $500,000 JewishColumbus provided to Columbus-area synagogues and Jewish agencies last month to cover the costs of armed security for six months. 

“That’s a tremendous expense that we could be using toward making summer camp or day school more reasonable, to help more of our community who are in need (or) to give our partner agencies more allocation so they can do the great work they do. So, taking half-a-million (dollars) out of our reserve fund in order to pay for this, basically what we think is an estimate of a million dollars a year community-wide, it’s significant. It’s very, very significant. What we were afraid of is if we weren’t able to raise an extra $1 million a year in the campaign, we would have to have the conversation in regards to, well, what will we fund or what will we cut funding from, in order to fund for security.”

Howie Beigelman, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities in Columbus, said a lot goes into securing a community, but the two most important –

and expensive – aspects are target hardening and security personnel.

“For us, we have seen too many times in the last few years attacks on religious communities, the Jewish community certainly, but others as well,” Beigelman said. “Sometimes, it seems like people are reacting and acting too late. Here, it’s really impressive to us that the legislature and the governor and state are stepping up and saying that they want to take this on proactively, they want to head this off.”

Beigelman noted the grant is not specifically for the Jewish communities and praised the many Ohio lawmakers who helped make the bill happen.

“We’re not the only ones in this,” he said. “I think for us, our community, we have a special fear, a special worry on things like this as they happen around the world. And we’ve seen, again, places around the world where governments aren’t always so quick to help Jewish communities, to stand with them. Here, we have a strong message to our community, from the government saying, ‘We’re not going to tolerate this. We see the rising hate, we see the rise in anti-Semitism, we see the rise in bigotry and we’re standing with you.’”

Todd Polikoff, CEO of the Jewish Community Board of Akron praised the “proactive legislation” in a statement.

“We are changing our own security posture dramatically,” Polikoff said. “And this kind of proactive legislation is what will help us leverage our philanthropic dollars to keep this community safe. We see no greater need today than hardening the physical campus and deploying armed personnel. We here are especially grateful to our area legislators for their leadership roles. Our thanks to Leader (Emilia) Sykes as well as Sen. (Vernon) Sykes, and to the lead sponsor in the House, Rep. Casey Weinstein. We likewise urge immediate passage of the bill.”

Beigelman also was impressed by the bipartisan work done by the Ohio legislature to get the bill ready for passage.

“We had a lot of really strong support,” he said. “The bipartisan and bicameral support we had from the rank-and-file members and the committee leadership, from public safety committees, from the budget and finance committees, the leadership on both sides of the aisle. As a community, we have not had this support throughout Jewish history. To see the level of support and the broad base of support in a bipartisan fashion for our community was really gratifying to us.”

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