Four local institutions have been awarded grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to be used for facility upgrades designed to deter and detect potential terrorist attacks.
Beth Chaim Reform Congregation in Malvern, Chabad Lubavitch of the Main Line in Merion Station, Congregation Mikveh Israel in Old City and the Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia were among dozens of Jewish groups across the country to receive funding from the federal agency's Nonprofit Security Grant Program. The local organizations collectively received $277,100, according to Homeland Security documents.
The National Museum of American Jewish History used to take care of security at Mikveh Israel when it shared space at the synagogue building, said president Mark Wolfson. With the museum in its own home for a year and a half now, Wolfson said, the synagogue needed the grant to upgrade an antiquated security system, including new electrical wiring to control the automatic entry system.
Beth Chaim will use the money for blast-proofing; landscaping that will make it harder for people to get close to the building; and upgraded video surveillance, said president Kate Nolt.
Unlike the synagogues, JFCS will start by hiring a safety consultant to determine what security upgrades are needed at its various facilities, including offices in Center City and Northeast Philadelphia. If there's money left, it will be used to start on some of those improvements, said Nancy Glasberg, vice president of human resources.
The Jewish Federations of North America and other Jewish groups worked to help establish the security grant program for organizations considered vulnerable to attack back in 2005. The federal government has distributed $128 million through the program since then.
Altogether, Jewish institutions accounted for 97 percent of the $10 million doled out this year. That's a higher percentage than last year, though the total amount of funding decreased from $19 million.