Federal grants for upgrading security will go to 68 applicants in New York State this year, and 75 percent of those are potential Jewish targets.
Sites in New York State received almost a third of the $15 million distributed nationwide for 2009 by the Department of Homeland Security. All but seven are in New York City.
The Jewish Community Relations Council, which assists Jewish organizations applying for the funds said there were a total of 138 applications in New York. The list of approved grants will not be publicized.
In the aftermath of an apartment fire in Williamsburg during Passover that killed three children, the New York Board of Rabbis said it will work with the Jewish Community Relations Council and the New York Fire Department to provide tips about preventing fires from candlelighting and cooking, and ensuring that working smoke detectors are in place. In addition to screening a video in classrooms, another idea under consideration is sending home packets of batteries with schoolchildren as a reminder to check smoke alarms.
While insisting there is no particular cause for alarm, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly sought to assure the Jewish community Tuesday that extra security measures would be in place for Passover.
They also called on the public to go about their business as usual, reporting anything suspicious via a police hotline.
Leaders in Orthodox neighborhoods will organize centrally located, controlled fires for chametz burning next Passover, hoping to avoid incidents like the one in Brooklyn last week in which five people were burned.
Amid unusually blustery weather on April 5, a fire company in the Borough Park section reportedly put out 125 dangerous fires set by residents partaking in the ritual of incinerating non-leavened food on the eve of Passover.
The New York Fire Department was stepping up safety education efforts in Orthodox areas this week after a fire in Williamsburg on the second day of Passover left three chasidic boys dead.
“We passed out over 5,000 fliers [before the holiday] to explain hazards and precautions that should be taken, and we’ll be back out there again and do it this week,” said the FDNY’s chief of operations, Salvatore Cassano. “The holiday isn’t over yet.”
On Sept. 11, 2001, staff at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York contemplated evacuating their Midtown offices as they watched the Twin Towers collapse on TV.
“We made the decision to stay in place,” recalled Barbara Kessel, the BJE’s director of administration.
A phone caller a short time later who seemed to be speaking Arabic prompted reconsideration. “But we didn’t know where to go to,” said Kessel.
Only $8 million of the $20 million raised from American Jews to provide security guards for Israel’s schoolchildren will be used for that purpose, The Jewish Week has learned.
“Something doesn’t smell good,” said Hilik Goldstein, a spokesman for the Union of Local Authorities, which is hiring the guards for Israel’s 124 municipalities and who revealed the funding cutback.
Jerusalem — American students at Israeli universities will get gas masks if a state of emergency is declared, Israeli Defense Minister Yitzchak Mordechai told The Jewish Week after giving similar assurances to the president of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan.
Shya Herman of Riverdale opened the newspaper last week to learn that Israelis were lining up for new gas masks. Upon learning that his son, a student at Bar-Ilan University, did not have one, he called the Israeli Consulate.
“All I’m asking is for my son to be safe,” Herman said. “Why doesn’t the university have [gas masks] on campus?
“I’m not asking that they be distributed, only that they be nearby. If we can’t be assured of the safety for our son, Aaron, we’re going to bring him home.”