According to Howie Beigelman, president and CEO of Ohio Jewish Communities, Ohio’s draft budget for 2024 to 2025 “will have a positive impact (on) every Jewish community and probably every Jewish agency in the state” as it doubles nonprofit security grants to $17 million over a two-year period and increases Holocaust education funding from $400,000 in 2023-2024 to $2,350,000 in 2024-2025.
This support will “help us protect (the Jewish community) in a time of hate, in a time of surging antisemitism, in a time of increased polarization and more and more of a breakdown of civil society sometimes, this will help our community, which is unfortunately a top target of domestic and foreign terrorists, to be safer,” he told the Cleveland Jewish News.
The security grant proposal is “amazing” and includes “the largest amount they’ve ever given for security” while “recognizing the changing threat landscape for the community and that the grants are actually meeting those needs,” he said.
Such changes include allowing grant-supported security equipment, including surveillance cameras, to be placed off of an applicant’s premises which expands the security perimeter, allowing Jewish institutions to “work with law enforcement and municipalities to put cameras up on high traffic areas,” he said.
The budget also funds security pilot programs for Jewish federations throughout the state, including $150,000 to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland for an anti-terrorism cybersecurity pilot program. There is also up to $247,000 in funds for the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood and Camp Wise in Claridon Township to implement a tethered drone pilot program to enhance security at those facilities. The pilots would help determine the feasibility and cost effectiveness of sharing the data collected from drones with emergency responders, public safety professionals and infrastructure security professionals.
Beigelman said these provisions were the result of years of discussions between Ohio Jewish Communities with federation security directors about security needs, followed by discussions with officials with the Ohio Department of Public Safety and then with House lawmakers, including House Finance Committee Chairman Jay Edwards, R-Athens, the budget’s lead sponsor.
“Chairman Edwards finance chair said to me, ‘Will these changes help do what needs to be done to help protect the community,’ and I said, ‘This is what our security directors are asking for and this is what we talked with public safety about, this is exactly it,’” he said.
Also, this year’s proposed budget “will help us to combat Holocaust misinformation and misappropriation,” Beigelman said. “It will really help us keep that pledge of ‘never again’” through the programming it supports and the amount of support provided.
“This is the first time that the state has given that much funding for Holocaust education-focused and genocide-focused” education, he said. “It’s an incredible amount.”
The more than $2.3 million in Holocaust education funding includes $175,000 each fiscal year to create Ohio-specific Holocaust curriculum for schools throughout the state to be used at public schools, private schools and home schools. The bill would also allocate $125,000 per year to “record stories and testimonials from Ohio survivors and liberators, as well as veterans or active duty military personnel involved in operations related to eliminating genocide,” according to Ohio Jewish Communities’ analysis of the bill.
Such funding is important to ensure students are educated on the horrors of the Holocaust, Beigelman said.
In conversations with Holocaust educators “of what the needs are, what would help them the most, what’s come back again and again is ‘We don’t need a mandate, we need teachers who are trained to teach the subject and who are comfortable teaching the subject,’” Beigelman said.
This includes not only training teachers as part of professional development, but students in graduate teaching programs and providing funds for educational programming in summer sessions and through professional development at places like Yad Vashem in Israel, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center in Cincinnati or the Maltz Museum in Beachwood, he said.
The funding also helps create Ohio-specific curriculum through the creation of a searchable database based on subject matter and location of survivors and liberators as well as where those individuals were during the war, including in ghettos, in certain concentration camps, so educators could find the people closest to them who could best tell the story of the Holocaust from those perspectives, he said.
The two-year funding proposal, House Bill 33, passed the House Finance Committee with bipartisan support April 25, and the full Republican-led House on April 26. The bill is expected to head to the Senate by early May.