I had planned to write the bulk of my message this week, my final one of the 2022, about my time at the Hillel International Global Assembly (HIGA) in Dallas. I was inspired during my 23 hours in Texas learning about the work of the Hillel movement and some of its strategies to help our Jewish college students on their Jewish journeys. I am proud of our Federation’s support of the Edward and Rose Berman Hillel Jewish University Center, one of our Federation’s beneficiary agencies, as well as the Hillel at Penn State, for their creativity and focus on measurable outcomes.
Instead, I want to focus on a piece of excellent news we received on Wednesday. As you know, Federation has a robust security initiative and a Community Relations Council that works on government relations. We fund the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition which works on a statewide basis representing the Jewish communities of the Commonwealth in Harrisburg. These different parts work together seamlessly. Our successful lobbying played a pivotal role in a continued pool of $5 million for the state’s nonprofit security grant program this year. (I also want to thank our local political leaders for their partnership and support. They have been remarkable.)
Our Security team worked with our local congregations and agencies in providing building assessments and grant writing support. The result is that of nearly $4 million granted (the state will release the remaining $1 million in early 2023), our Jewish Pittsburgh regional institutions were awarded $730,000. That is 18% of the total available for all nonprofits throughout the 67 counties in Pennsylvania! Since the Nonprofit Security Grant Program’s inception in 2019, we have been able to help secure $3,234,000 dollars representing over 60 grants to Jewish organizations in Southwest Pennsylvania to help keep our community safe.
I always like to relate our work back to our mission statement. We “cultivate resources, connect people and collaborate across the community to live and fulfill Jewish values”. In this example, we successfully cultivated financial resources and did it by collaborating across the community. It is also important to note that our work extends beyond the Jewish community as we continue to advise other religious and civic institutions outside the Jewish community in their application process.
It might be tempting to relate these security dollars as a Chanukah gift to our community but I don’t see it that way. It is a responsibility of government to protect its citizens. I am thankful we live in a state that understands its obligations. “While it’s a shame this has been necessary, I’m proud to have secured nearly $20 million over the past three years to protect Pennsylvania’s diverse and vulnerable communities from hate-driven violence,” said Gov. Wolf. “I look forward to the day when the goodness of humanity prevails.” May there be a day when such support is not needed.
Finally, our staff held its annual Staff Appreciation/Chanukah luncheon on Thursday. This incredible team of dedicated, committed, talented individuals are a gift to our community on the eight days of Chanukah and on the other 357 days a year as well. Thank you to each and every one of them for their skills, talents and passion for our collective work.
Shabbat Shalom. Happy Chanukah. And, Happy New Year!