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May 30, 2003 - Image 24

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-05-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Washington Watch

Security Crisi$

Jewish organizations get sympathetic ear, but little help, on rising security costs.

JAMES D. BESSER
Washington Correspondent

J14:

5/30
2003

24

ith the nation jittery
about the possibility of
new terror attacks,
Jewish leaders are jittery
about something else, as well: how to
pay for soaring security costs for Jewish
schools, community centers and other
facilities.
At a meeting last week with Jewish
leaders, Senate Democrats made it clear
that the federal government, facing the
worst budget crisis in decades, can't do
much to help. The meeting, convened
by the National Jewish Democratic
Council and the United Jewish
Communities to address a wide range
of issues, quickly zeroed in on the
astronomical costs Jewish agencies face
as they try to cope with endless security
alerts.
Participants were hoping that some
money allocated for homeland security
could be steered toward religious
groups that could be terror targets —
and not just Jewish ones. "People who
come to these facilities — day care cen-
ters, senior centers, schools — are very
concerned about safety," said Ronald
Soloway, managing director for govern-
ment relations of the UJA-Federation
of New York.
"People are very aware of what hap-
pened at the Jewish community center
in Argentina a decade ago, and in
Morocco recently when a Jewish center
was targeted."
Jewish officials from around the
country, he said, are doing their best to
improve security, but the effort is
straining resources. Adding a single
security guard to a Jewish facility can
cost $50,000 a year, he said; physical
improvements such as card-entry sys-
tems, enhanced lighting, hardening
windows and fencing multiply the
costs.
"In New York, we did a survey of a
number of our agencies, and what we
found is that many are looking at
added costs in the $100,000-200,000
range. And they just don't have it, espe-
cially the smaller agencies."
Soaring security costs come "at a time
when you have major increases in all
kinds of insurance, major increases in
the pension costs of agencies, in addi-

tion to reductions in government and
philanthropic funding," he said. "So
where does the money come from?"
Other at-risk communities —
including the Muslim community —
face similar problems, he said. In the
Jewish community, the security funding
crisis is most acute in big cities with
extensive networks of Jewish institu-
tions. But no Jewish communities are
immune.
"Every agency faces the same prob-
lem: more demands on their services,
less money, and now this pressing con-
cern about security," said an official
with another Jewish organization. "We
are in no position to evaluate the secu-
rity threat; when the Office of
Homeland Security raises the alert
level, we have to take it seriously.
Nobody knows where the money is
going to come from."
Soloway said Sen. Barbara Mikulski,
D-Md., and Sen. Hillary Rodham
Clinton, D-N.Y., promised look into
whether homeland security funds could
be provided to help Jewish institutions
deal with rising security concerns. But
other observers say new money will be
hard to find.

Job Switching

The Bush administra-
tion doesn't have a lot of
Jews in top jobs, but the
ones it does have are on
the move.
Last week, the most
visible — White House
press secretary Ari
Bolten
Fleischer — announced
his resignation. Fleischer,
citing his desire to find a
more relaxing line of
work, is set to leave in July. Most
observers say Fleischer has been an
effective spokesman during a two-year
tenure that included the Sept. 11 terror
attacks and the war in Iraq.
White House political director Ken
Mehlman, one of the highest-ranking
Jews in the Bush administration, will
take over as manager of the Bush-
Cheney re-election effort. GOP sources
say Mehlman will be the first Jew to
manage a Republican president's re-
election effort.
Mehlman, who served as a regional

political director during the 2000 cam-
paign, has played a major role in
advancing the president's conservative
domestic policies. Washington politicos
also credit him with an important role
in the GOP congressional sweep in last
November's elections.
Josh Bolten, the deputy White House
chief of staff and a veteran of the first
Bush administration, will take over as
director of the Office of Management
and Budget (OMB), replacing Mitch
Daniels, who resigned to run for gover-
nor of Indiana. Bolten faces a daunting
challenge: managing a budget that has
gone from surpluses to huge deficits in
two years, and which faces the prospect
of even more deficits as the latest
administration-sponsored tax cut
reduces federal revenues.
The White House appears in no rush
to fill another post. Adam Goldman
recently stepped down as the White
House liaison to the Jewish communi-
ty. No replacement has been named; a
GOP source said that filling the job is
not a top priority for an administration
that enjoys good relations with many
top Jewish leaders.

Genetics Bill

A long-stalled piece of legislation to
combat job discrimina-
tion based on genetic
testing is finally on the
move — to the delight
of Jewish women's
groups, which say Jewish
women are particularly,
vulnerable to such dis-
Lipton
crimination.
Last week, the Senate
Health, Education,
Labor and Pensions
Committee approved the Genetic
Information Non-Discrimination Act
of 2003. That is the first time a con-
gressional committee has considered
the legislation since it was first intro-
duced more than seven years ago.
The measure would prohibit health
insurers from using information from
genetic testing in decisions on premi-
ums and coverage. It would also bar
employers from using the same kind of
information in hiring decisions.
Bonnie Lipton, the president of
Hadassah, expressed cautious pleasure

at the vote. "We are pleased that the
bill would provide for comprehensive
genetic non-discrimination protection,"
she said in a statement. "We are disap-
pointed that the enforcement mecha-
nisms against insurance plans are
weak."
Capitol Hill source say the measure
still faces big hurdles, including strong
opposition from business interests.

Leftists Arise

According to some accounts, the Jewish
community is shifting to the right,
especially on Israel-related issues. But
Jewish peaceniks say that's just spin; in
fact, they claim, the time is ripe for a
resurgence of Jewish peace activism.
That will be the underlying theme of
next week's congressional "teach in"
sponsored by the Tikkun Community,
the activist network centering on the
progressive magazine.
Tikkun leaders say they hope to pose
a serious challenge to the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee
(AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby. Rabbi
Michael Lerner, the Tikkun leader, said
the conference represents a "significant
maturing of the Jewish peace move-
ment."
Increasingly, he said, mainstream
Jews recognize that "no
change in Israeli policy
will happen without sig-
nificant intervention
from the U.S., and that
intervention will only
happen when it feels
politically 'safe' to do so
Lerner
for elected office-hold-
ers.
'And no change in
American policy will
happen as long as AIPAC gives
unequivocal support to the Sharon gov-
ernment while Palestinians give
unequivocal support to the Palestinian
Authority."
The Tikkun community, he said, is
seeking a "middle path that can satisfy
the needs of both sides" in the Mideast
conflict.
Next week's conference, he said, will
also put a spotlight on growing concern
among Jewish liberals about "anti-
Semitism on the left, and the misuse of
anti-Zionism as a cover for anti-

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