New State Budget to Greatly Aid Non-Profits, TJMHC

Tucson Jewish Museum & Holocaust Center w/Prince Chapel AME Church in background

Since 2004, nonprofit organizations around the country, including many in our local Jewish community, have benefited from the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program. This initiative, spearheaded by Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), provides support for physical security enhancements and activities, including planning and training, to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of attack due to their mission, identity or beliefs.

That program, however, does not grant funds up front, and the reimbursement process can be onerous or simply out of reach for many organizations. The state budget that Arizona Governor, Katie Hobbs, signed into law last week will help lower those barriers: it includes $5 million in grant funding that will provide security improvements for small- and medium-size nonprofits and houses of worship throughout the state. Monies will be allocated at $1 million a year over five years, and organizations, agencies, and congregations who may be targets for violence or vandalism are eligible for up to $100,000 annually.

The Tucson Jewish Museum and Holocaust Center (home to the JCRC for Tucson & Southern Arizona), along with our next-door neighbor on S. Stone Avenue, the Prince Chapel AME Church, have each experienced damage to our air conditioning units and other acts of vandalism, necessitating expensive repairs. We are just two of the local organizations who will benefit from this program, and our more secure campuses can help build safer neighborhoods and stronger community.

The measure received overwhelming bipartisan support from across the state, and the passage of this bill was an exercise in collaboration and coalition building. The coordinated efforts by Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman, spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillah in Scottsdale, Rev. Katie Sexton-Wood, executive director of the Arizona Faith Network, and my JCRC colleague in Phoenix, Paul Rockower, speak to the interfaith and intercultural importance of these resources. Support from Combined Jewish Philanthropies (Phoenix) and Jewish Philanthropies for Southern Arizona also contributed to the success of this initiative.

In his recent proclamation acknowledging May as Jewish American Heritage Month, President Joe Biden celebrated the ways in which Jewish Americans have long contributed (and continue to weave) the culture and fabric of our country. He cited Jews’ engagement in struggles for civil rights and religious liberty, “helping define…the bedrock principles upon which America was built.” But he also decried the record rise of antisemitism that we are currently experiencing, and he called upon all Americans to confront bigotry in all its forms.

It is appalling that today’s American Jewish experience includes grappling with existential threats. But even though our conversations around security in the Jewish community occur through the lens of antisemitism, we must engage with hate-based and identity-based violence as a community-wide concern. This grant program, and the bi-partisan, interfaith collaboration that made it possible, is one step toward broader cooperation.