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Jewish groups praise security grants, despite major cuts

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish groups praised the Obama administration and Congress for $10 million in new homeland security grants while noting that the allocation was nearly halved from last year.

"While tough decisions were made by Congress and the Administration, we appreciate the outreach both branches of the Federal government have made leading up to today’s funding announcement, and we are grateful for, although not delighted about, the reduced allocation," William Daroff, the Washington director of the Jewish Federations of North America, said in a statement Monday.

Last year’s allocation to non-profits was $19 million. The bulk of the grants in recent years have gone to Jewish institutions for security upgrades, including video systems and barriers.

Daroff said the cuts come at a time of heightened security threats.

"Since the inception of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program in 2005, there has been ample evidence, supported in the public record, of threats, plots and attacks against ‘soft’ Jewish communal targets at home and abroad," he said. "Today, we as a community are faced with emerging and growing security concerns emanating from Iran and through its proxy, Hezbollah, as tensions rise surrounding Iran’s nuclear ambitions and American-led sanctions to rein them in."

The Orthodox Union, an umbrella group that with JFNA and Agudath Israel of America led the lobbying for the allocation, noted that the cuts come at a time of austerity.

"While the allocation of $10 million is a lower allocation than in recent years, the Department was contending with severe cuts made by Congress to its overall grants budget for the current fiscal year," the OU said.

Agudath Israel of America said the decision recognized the program’s merits, considering that similar programs were eliminated entirely. 

"Faced with the reality that numerous programs are being eliminated, the NSGP survived and received a very respectable allocation," it said in a statement. "Percentage-wise it did better than many other programs. So, in context, considering the alternatives, this is a significant victory — which speaks volumes for the merits of the program."

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