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Forest Hills synagogues and schools want federal grant money to make their facilities more secure, but a Kew Gardens rabbi thinks none of them should get a dime.
Representatives from various 501(c)(3) nonprofits gathered Friday to seek guidance on how to apply for funds from the federal government in an information session hosted by U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills).
“We have seen — unfortunately, you don’t have to go far back — where religious institutions have been targeted by potential terrorists,” Weiner said, referring to a recent incident involving a plot to attack a synagogue in Manhattan. “There are some things the Police Department can do, and there are some things we need to rely on these religious institutions to do themselves.”
The idea is that nonprofits can apply for a grant for up to $78,000 to spend on security hardware like closed-circuit televisions and locks or fencing to prevent against terror attacks or burglaries.
But the feds are flushing away their money, according to Rabbi Gary Moskowitz, who trains synagogue leaders on how to prevent and deal with attacks.
“It’s an incredible waste of money,” he said. “It’s a cosmetic effect on security.”
Security cameras, for instance, are only useful after an accident or break-in has occurred, he said, although they might provide the illusion of security.
“Cameras cannot stop anybody when they attack, they are only good to investigate after people are dead,” Moskowitz said.
Instead, the program should focus on prevention and training, he said.
In the case of a synagogue, leaders who are there every week should be trained to watch out for suspicious activity, not the NYPD.
“Anybody could put on a skull cap and blow the place up,” he said. “Only the people who go there can possibly stop intruders ... the response time needs to be zero.”
That is why Moskowitz visits synagogues around the borough and trains worshipers how to defend their turf from attackers.
But a stipulation of the grant is that no money can be used to pay personnel because it only covers hardware.
Even training on how to use the hardware would be beneficial, he said.
“A training base is needed,” Moskowitz said. “You shouldn’t get a dime unless you do training.”
But Moscowitz was not the only one dissatisfied with the grants.
Many of the nonprofit’s representatives who attended the information session complained that there were only 17 days to get their applications into the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“It’s ludicrous,” said Stuart Warsawsky, who is applying for closed-circuit cameras and other security improvements for a girls’ school he runs.
To make matters worse, the Jewish holiday of Shvous falls within the 17-day application period, even though last year roughly two-thirds of the roughly 300 applicants from New York were synagogues.
But he will do his best to compete with the other organizations in the five boroughs along with Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester counties, which are the only areas that can apply for the roughly $18 million in funds allocated for New York state.
“We have an opportunity of putting ourselves in a better position,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you?”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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