In the wake of last weekend's white nationalist march and violence in Charlottesville, Va., the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago has made an $18,000 emergency grant to provide the Charlottesville Jewish community with extra security funding.
The first allocations from these funds will enable the city's Reform synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel, to provide more stringent security during the upcoming High Holy Days, as well as for regular Shabbat and celebrations of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs; and will provide an upgrade to the University of Virginia Hillel's security system on campus.
The move comes amid a larger grant cycle in which JUF has awarded nearly $1.2 million in security funding to 61 Chicago-area Jewish sites through its JUF Security Grant Program, in response to a sharp uptick in anti-Semitic incidents last spring. The funds will enable security enhancements ranging from surveillance systems, to facility access control, to security personnel, and other site improvements and measures.
According to FBI reports, Jews and Jewish institutions are the single largest targets for religion-based hate crimes in the United States.
JUF Chairman of the Board Michael H. Zaransky said Federation leaders felt making an extra grant to Charlottesville was an important way to stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and other potential targets there at a time when hate-fueled unrest has gripped the city.
"Nazis murdered 6 million Jews in Europe. The KKK terrorized and murdered an untold number of African Americans in this country. Since then their hateful rhetoric has targeted other minority groups, and their public, violent reemergence is a threat to us all," said JUF/Federation President Dr. Steven B. Nasatir. "We stand with the Jewish community of Charlottesville, and people of good conscience everywhere, in denouncing this evil, and reaffirm our commitment to creating an America free of all forms of hate and persecution."
"This gift will do a tremendous amount of good and is very, very appreciated," said Jeffrey Fowler, a Charlottesville native who grew up at Beth Israel and now resides in Chicago. "The events of last weekend were tough to witness, even from a distance, but one of the hardest parts was knowing how nervous, even scared, that many in the congregation were, both for their safety and that of their historic synagogue."
JUF's swift response is part of a decades-long tradition of working with communal institutions on security preparedness, and supporting Jewish communities worldwide. The local grant program was the result of a special Security Summit that JUF convened in March, which drew more than 180 participants from over 70 area Jewish organizations and facilities.
Locally, the new JUF security grants will help protect more than 22,000 vulnerable people at 61 sites in the greater Chicago area, including: 25 synagogues, 17 day schools/ preschools, 12 agency locations, 3 camps, 2 colleges and a radio alert system for synagogues and security coordinators located in West Rogers Park, Peterson Park, Albany Park, Lincolnwood, Skokie and Wilmette areas. Awards were also made in Elgin, Naperville, Lombard, Oak Park, River Forest, Wisconsin, as well as the city, and near North, North and Northwest suburbs.