Brooklyn Boro

Fund Created to Provide Security for Small Brooklyn Synagogues

Mainly Orthodox, They Have Small Memberships, Smaller Staffs

February 14, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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As many Jews increasingly fear attending synagogues amid escalating antisemitic incidents, UJA-Federation of New York on Monday announced the creation of an initial $250,000 fund at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) to implement a program for providing security enhancement packages to at least 50 small synagogues — also known as shtiebels — in Brooklyn.

The synagogues, mainly Orthodox, are in Midwood, Kensington, Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Borough Park and Flatbush. They have a capacity of fewer than 200 people and little or no staff.

The program, to be run by the Community Security Initiative (CSI) — a joint initiative of UJA-Federation and JCRC-NY — closes a crucial gap in funding that often leaves out smaller synagogues from accessing funding from government or other sources for physical security enhancements.

The new security enhancement packages can include the installation of new doors, locks, and video cameras, and will be followed by active shooter and access control training for staff or key congregants.

Orthodox Jews in Borough Park, Brooklyn.
Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

“No synagogue should be left without proper security measures just because they lack access to necessary funding,” said Eric S. Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York. “Whether praying in the largest shul in Manhattan or the smallest shtiebel in Brooklyn, every Jew deserves the right to worship in peace and security.”

“Unfortunately, since 2018, at synagogues in Pittsburgh; Poway; Monsey; and Halle, Germany, access control and keeping threats from being able to enter our houses of worship has meant the difference between life and death for congregants,” said Mitchell D. Silber, executive director of the Community Security Initiative. “This program will fortify and protect some of our most vulnerable locations and communities.”

There are approximately 250 small synagogues in Brooklyn, and most do not have basic security measures in place to protect against increased threats that Jewish institutions are confronting.

The NYPD hate crimes unit reported 22 hate crimes against Jewish people so far this year, compared to eight in the same time period last year.

Small synagogues are left without security funding for many reasons, but notably they are often unable to access funding from federal grants, such as from the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, because they lack staff that can manage the long and complicated grant application process.

Kol Israel synagogue on St. Johns Place in Crown Heights.
Wikimedia photo by Nudgol

The new fund from UJA-Federation at JCRC-NY is intended to bridge this funding gap for smaller synagogues and offer significant improvements to basic security infrastructure and overall safety.

The physical upgrades and trainings will be coordinated in partnership with community groups, including Agudath Israel of America, Boro Park Jewish Community Council, Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, and Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush, as well as neighborhood civilian patrols.

“Unfortunately, criminals who hate do not distinguish between small or large houses of worship,” said Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein (D-Borough Park-Midwood). “They will seize any opportunity to wreak havoc, no matter the size or type of synagogue. That’s why security is imperative in every single house of worship

“Agudath Israel appreciates UJA-Federation making resources available at JCRC-NY to enhance the security of our precious botei knessios and botei medroshos (houses of worship and houses of study),” said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America. “With the understanding that Hashem (the Almighty) provides our ultimate protection, we must do all that is in our power as well, and Agudath Israel is pleased to do its part by assisting with implementation and spreading to its constituent congregations.”

Over the last year alone, CSI conducted 135 physical security assessments at local Jewish institutions and helped guide 177 organizations to secure $27 million in federal nonprofit security grants, almost 30% of the Department of Homeland Security’s national funds for urban areas. And CSI has provided support to nearly 1,000 local institutions, from incidence response to security training.

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