US/World News

Spending bill boosts security funds for Jewish groups

(JTA) – An omnibus spending bill approved by Congress more than doubles spending for security grants that have been overwhelmingly tapped by Jewish institutions. The $1.3 trillion bill approved March 22 includes $60 million for the security grants, up from $25 million last year. More than 90 percent of the grants have been used to harden security at Jewish institutions since the nonprofit security grant program was launched in 2005. Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, one of the lead advocates for the grants, said a spike in threats on Jewish institutions over the last year drove the increase. According to the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. in 2017 increased by 43 percent over 2016, not including a spate of bomb threats carried out against Jewish institutions by a Jewish man in Israel.

The bill also includes $175 million over the next 10 years to improve security at schools, a provision that was accelerated after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The bill will fund training in violence prevention, police-school coordination and crisis intervention, and will be extended to private and parochial schools as well as public schools.

The Jewish Federation of North America praised the inclusion of $5 million for the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program, double the amount of previous years. The program partners with Jewish institutions to deliver assistance to elderly Holocaust survivors. “There are approximately 100,000 Holocaust survivors living in the United States today, with an estimated 30,000 living in poverty,” said William Daroff, the Washington director of JFNA, in a statement. “By doubling funding levels to $5 million, the program now will be able to provide immediate support to ensure that Holocaust survivors are able to live in dignity and comfort for the remainder of their lives.”

Also wrapped into the omnibus is the Taylor Force Act, which slashes funding to the Palestinians until the Palestinian Authority stops payments to Palestinians killed or arrested during attacks on Israelis. Taylor Force was an American who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv in 2016. U.S. funding for the Palestinians currently stands at about $260 million a year. None of the money targeted goes directly to the Palestinian Authority, instead funding programs run by NGOs that assist Palestinians.

Also included in the omnibus bill: (1) $700 million in funding for U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs, a boost of $100 million. Starting next year, missile defense will be rolled into the overall defense assistance package for Israel, part of a $38 billion to be delivered to Israel over 10 years; (2) $1 million dollars to combat antisemitism abroad, in addition to funding for the office of the antisemitism monitor at the State Department. Jewish groups have expressed their concern that the Trump administration has yet to name an antisemitism monitor.

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