Legislative Advocates for the Win: New Cost-Saving Measures and Security Funding

Written by Kami Troy on . Posted in Community News

As founding members and co-chairs of the interfaith River Coalition, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington recently announced that the DC Council and Office of the Mayor agreed to create a $4 million fund to help houses of worship, cemeteries, and nonprofits pay what it characterized as “onerous water charges.” The Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge (CRIAC) Nonprofit Relief Program, operated by DC’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), is rolling out this month.

In order to qualify for these funds, an organization must meet a number of criteria, according to the DOEE website.

First, it must be a registered nonprofit in the District of Columbia with a real property tax exemption as a charitable organization, religious house of worship, or cemetery. Second, it must demonstrate financial hardship in paying the CRIAC, with a CRIAC 1 percent or greater than their annual revenue after expenses. Finally, it must complete a stormwater mitigation project to help diminish the harmful effects of stormwater runoff by installing green infrastructure on their property or elsewhere in the District.

The JCRC also helped secure $1 million in Maryland state security grant funds for private schools and child care centers at risk of hate crimes. In the Montgomery County area, 11 Jewish schools and child care centers collectively received $334,492 in funds to help with important security upgrades and the presence of off-duty officers.

Parents from The Gan Montessori in Silver Spring, Maryland, received an email Jan. 13 from Director Chaya Wolvovsky regarding the increased security measures. She communicated that for the rest of the school year, police security would be present during some of the school day.

“These will be off-duty Montgomery County police officers and you may see them during drop off and pick up times at the Lamberton and Four Corners locations,” wrote Wolvovsky. “This is out of an abundance of caution and not because of any specific threats or concerns. We were fortunate to receive a grant from the Maryland Center for School Safety to underwrite this security cost.”

Yossie Charner, director of development at the Torah School of Greater Washington, also in Silver Spring, shared his appreciation for the work of local advocacy groups such as the JCRC, The Agudah, the Orthodox Union (OU), and the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) for their help in securing over $25,000 for additional security guards at the school.

Charner also expressed gratitude to Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) President Yehuda Neuberger: In 2017, as co-chair of Maryland Parents for Education, Neuberger assisted in initiating the school security grant program bill that provided these recently announced grants. The bill was introduced by Democrats Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk and Sen. Roger Manno.

On top of all this, on Jan. 15, the office of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced a total of $5 million in funding for the Fiscal Year 2020 budget to enhance security at facilities that are potential targets for hate crimes, including schools and places of worship. The funding will support additional security needs including training, security personnel, and security-related technology such as cameras, door-hardening, improved lighting, and other security-related facility upgrades. This new competitive grant program will be administered by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention of Maryland.

“Hate has no place in our society and we stand united in our conviction that a diverse and inclusive Maryland is a stronger Maryland,” said Hogan. “These investments will allow us to more effectively prevent and address instances of hate and violence across our state, and help ensure that Maryland remains a place where people of all backgrounds and beliefs can call home.”

“We must stand in solidarity against anti-Semitism and other acts and words of hatred,” said Neuberger. “The initiatives announced today by Gov. Hogan will strengthen and protect communities across Maryland.”

“The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington is pleased that Gov. Hogan recognizes the growing need to protect our faith-based institutions by allocating much-needed funds for both operating and capital security needs,” said JCRC Executive Director Ron Halber.

CORRECTION, Jan. 23, 2019 3:41pm: Yossie Charner was originally mistakenly listed as the executive director of the Torah School of Greater Washington. He is school's director of development.

By Kami Troy


 Kami Troy is the senior editor of Kol HaBirah.