Jewish schools seek piece of public grants for security

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Amid a rise of violent attacks against the Jewish community, students and staff members at Jewish day schools in the same neighborhood as the Pittsburgh synagogue that was the site of October’s mass shooting are asking state lawmakers for help paying for security measures.

They went to Pennsylvania’s Capitol on Tuesday, along with delegations from Jewish schools in other cities around the state, to meet with lawmakers about including non-public schools in a year-old $60 million school security grant program.

It is a conversation that is growing in a number of states, with some, such as New Jersey, boosting money for such grants.

Like some other states, Pennsylvania began a school safety grant program after the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. It then expanded it six-fold after last year’s mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Heightened security has been in place at many Jewish day schools in recent years. But parents and staff at Jewish day schools say they are more alarmed now in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and another synagogue shooting in California last week on the last day of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

“Our students that go to school that next Monday, they’re aware, they’re aware of what happened on Passover at the synagogue, and what happens when you’re wearing a yamaka on your head,” said Arielle Frankston-Morris, executive director of the Jewish education advocacy organization TeachPA.

Security has been on the minds of parents and staff for “a long time,” she said. “But after Pittsburgh, you can’t ignore it, it’s just in your face.”

Samara Sofian, director of development for the Silver Academy in Harrisburg, said parents are asked to pay a security fee that rises every year, but that it doesn’t go far enough.

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