Congressman Troy Balderson Hosts Conference Call with Central Ohio Jewish Leaders
Nonprofit agency executives and lay leadership brief the Congressman on the pandemic’s local impact
Nonprofit agency executives and lay leadership brief the Congressman on the pandemic’s local impact
Dozens of Jewish community leaders joined Congressman Troy Balderson (R, OH-12) for a conference call to discuss the local impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, assess community priorities, and understand federal policy options. The call, hosted by the Congressman, was facilitated by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Columbus (JCRC) and Ohio Jewish Communities (OJC).
Congressman Balderson began the call with a review of federal actions as well as private sector and individual efforts to combat the spread of the virus. He also discussed the federal stimulus effort and how it is intended to alleviate acute, current issues facing families, businesses, and nonprofit agencies of all kinds.
In the next part of the call, the Congressman heard from several community leaders on how the community has both responded to the crisis to serve those most vulnerable and in need, as well as the legislative or regulatory priorities in ensuring the agencies can continue to accomplish their service missions.
“In a time of crisis such as this, our community must act in unison to support one another and protect our most vulnerable. This pandemic has affected each person and family in a way that is as unique as they are, and we must approach solutions with understanding and respect. I’m grateful to serve as an advocate and ally for my friends in Central Ohio’s Jewish community, and I stand ready to lend a helping hand however and whenever I can,” stated Congressman Troy Balderson.
Joel Marcovitch, CEO of JewishColumbus, detailed the community’s pre-pandemic planning process, including working on an inter-agency contingency plan with Jewish Family Services (JFS) and Wexner Heritage Village (WHV) should key social services be suspended. Karen Mozenter, the CEO of JFS, gave an overview of their work in mental and behavioral health counseling, helping seniors experiencing social isolation, new clients needing housing and food insecurity assistance, and the pivot of their signature workforce development programs to help those newly unemployed with training and placement assistance.
"From the necessary PPP loans to other critical stimulus funds, the focus of Congressman Balderson on the issues that affect our community - and others in Central Ohio - has seen real results."
Joel Marcovitch, CEO, JewishColumbus
Key areas with funding gaps also include technological hardware and software to allow for telehealth, to combat social isolation, and to provide workforce counseling and training.
Marcovitch noted “From the necessary PPP loans to other critical stimulus funds, the focus of Congressman Balderson on the issues that affect our community - and others in Central Ohio - has seen real results. Our agencies, and those they work and serve, have been impacted in a very real way by this legislation. We appreciate the chance to speak with him and look forward to working together again."
As well, Rabbi Avraham Drandoff, Head of School at Columbus Torah Academy, spoke of the new needs they faced beginning in March and looking ahead to the new academic year. Like JFS, these will also require technology such as tablets or laptops as well as PPE and sanitary equipment for the school campus, and potential capital funding to address renovations recommended or required by public health authorities.
Finally, the Congressman heard from Brad Kastan, co-chair of the JCRC, regarding Central Ohio’s potential to partner more deeply with Israel regarding job training for new, post-pandemic opportunities as well as trendsetting medical research, a specialty for both our region and for Israel.
“As our community continues its recovery and its services to anyone in need, regardless of faith, we count on the partnerships with our public officials. The Columbus area Jewish community is lucky to have as passionate a partner as Congressman Balderson. We’ve seen that already on issues such as community security, where he’s been a leader in the Congress. Now, his commitment to addressing the issues raised today will be equally vital as Congress looks to the next stimulus and even beyond,” said Howie Beigelman, OJC Executive Director.
This is the latest in a series of calls and videoconferences OJC and its partners have convened with public officials during the COVID19 pandemic. Previously, statewide community leadership calls were held with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH).
"As our community continues its recovery and its services to anyone in need, regardless of faith, we count on the partnerships with our public officials. The Columbus area Jewish community is lucky to have as passionate a partner as Congressman Balderson."
Howie Beigelman, Executive Director, Ohio Jewish Communities
May 19, 2020
"I’m grateful to serve as an advocate and ally for my friends in Central Ohio’s Jewish community, and I stand ready to lend a helping hand however and whenever I can,”
Congressman Troy Balderson
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Ohio Jewish Communities Statement on Substitute HB 166
Key community priorities are funded, including $8.5 million in nonprofit security grants and school safety grants to combat new wave of terrorism
Also appeared in: JewishAkron.org | Jackie Congedo-In Conversation, Jewish Federation of Cincinnati
Proposed state grants would help houses of worship ward off potential attacks Columbus Dispatch | June 13, 2019 updated June 14, 2019
Also appeared in: Akron Beacon Journal | The Alliance Review | Kent Record Courier | The Wooster Daily Record | The Daily Jeffersonian | Newcomerstown News | The Ashland Times-Gazette | Security Infowatch.com
June 14, 2019
Cleveland Jewish News | June 20, 2019
The American Israelite | June 19, 2019
The Jewish Advocate | June 19, 2019
Omnibus Bill Includes Critical Funding for Community Security Needs
Proof that bipartisan commitment to priorities still delivers for Ohio and America
and their some 150 affiliated agencies, is grateful to the leadership of our congressional delegation for ensuring increased funding for key priorities and advocating to include needed policies.
“Not even a week after the horrific attack against the Jewish community in Jersey City, the Omnibus focuses directly on the surging domestic terror threat, with $90 million allocated to the proven Nonprofit Security Grant Program, including a record $40 million for the tier Ohio benefits from, which translates into a quadrupling of relevant funding,” said OJC executive director Howie Beigelman. “Senator Rob Portman remains our greatest champion on this issue, while in the House, our three appropriators, Reps. Dave Joyce, Marcy Kaptur, and Tim Ryan each understand the deadly attempts against our community, including two plots - one in Youngstown and one in Toledo - thwarted by local law enforcement.”
OJC’s federal advocacy partners, the Jewish Federations of North America, led a national coalition on a recent bipartisan letter in the House asking for this $90 million, which garnered signatures and support from several members of our state’s Congressional delegation including Reps. Joyce Beatty, Steve Chabot, Anthony Gonzalez, Bill Johnson, and Steve Stivers.
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OJC Executive Director Howie Beigelman
December 18, 2019
Ohio Jewish Communities, the statewide government advocacy, public affairs, and community relations voice of the state’s eight Jewish federations
We are lucky in Ohio that here, like so many of our communal priorities, we see commitment from our entire delegation. It’s proof that bipartisan commitment to priorities still delivers for Ohio and America,” continued Beigelman.
In addition, a provision advanced in the House by Rep. Joyce Beatty and then in the Senate championed by Senator Sherrod Brown in the reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) requires a fuller study of the cost of insurance currently incurred by houses of worship. “This is a real issue for Ohio nonprofits and this study will help pave the way for informed public policy solutions,” Beigelman stated.
In addition to security needs, the Omnibus also repeals the unfair “fringe benefit” parking tax on charities and other nonprofits. This too was an area in which Senator Brown was a leader fighting for community institutions across Ohio. “This may seem like an arcane inside-the-Beltway tax change. But it has real effects on real people right here. We’re grateful,” noted Beigelman.
It includes key funding for nonprofit security needs in the wake of a sharp rise in terror attacks and attempted attacks on houses of worship, faith based institutions, cause-based nonprofits, and individuals identifiable as members of religious, racial, or ethnic minorities.
House led on target-hardening funding in their version
The House-passed version of HB 166 included $2.75 million per year of the biennium for “target hardening” grants to help protect vulnerable nonprofits. The Senate adds an additional $250,000 per year to that appropriation, bringing the target hardening total to $3 million per year.
Senate appropriations focus on need for personnel
As well, the Senate adds a $1.25 million per year appropriation to a matching grant program so that nonprofits such as chartered nonpublic schools and synagogues can hire armed security personnel, including school resource officers and special duty police.
Ohio Jewish Communities Executive Director Howie Beigelman stated “A terror plot foiled by law enforcement in Toledo just months ago is bookended by the terror attacks at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway.
Not a week - or a day - goes by without a new violent anti-Semitic attack somewhere. The KKK came to Dayton. Christians are killed at Easter services in Sri Lanka, African American churches are firebombed in Louisiana, and Muslims are gunned down at Christchurch mosques. Houses of Worship, schools, and community centers should be safe spaces, but instead have become potential targets. We commend the leadership for acting now, before it is too late.
“We support this budget and recommend its passage by the full Senate as well as urge House and Senate conferees to keep these vital, lifesaving appropriations in the final budget.”
As FBI statistics and reporting by the ADL show, incidences of violent attacks on religious minorities in the US are on the rise. News media internationally record a disturbing trend in attacks on Jewish institutions and individuals.
“We express our communities’ deep gratitude to legislative leaders in both chambers who led on this issue,” continued Beigelman.
“Senate President Larry Obhof has understood this need for years, and made this a priority issue. We are likewise appreciative of the support from other Senate leaders, including Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, President Pro Tem Bob Peterson, Majority Floor Leader Matt Huffman, and Assistant Minority Leader Cecil Thomas. Finance Chairman Matt Dolan took an early interest in working this issue and we appreciate too the bipartisan support of the committee, led by Ranking Member Vernon Sykes. Senator Kirk Schuring took an untiring role as lead sponsor of the personnel amendment, which was also offered and supported by a bipartisan roster of individual senators: Senators Nickie Antonio, Andrew Brenner, Hearcel Craig, Teresa Fedor, Stephanie Kunze, and Michael Rulli.
“In the House we know that nothing could have happened on this issue without the support of Speaker Larry Householder, and we are grateful as well for the support of Minority Leader Emilia Sykes. We commend Speaker Pro Tem Jim Butler for his support and effort on this and also are thankful for the leadership of Majority Leader Bill Seitz. On the Minority side, we couldn’t have asked for stronger advocates than Reps. Kristin Boggs and Kent Smith. Our bipartisan trio of lead sponsors in the House were Reps. Dave Greenspan, (former Montgomery County Sheriff) Phil Plummer, who understands this issue from a professional lens, and Casey Weinstein. Chairman Scott Oelslager was generous in giving his time because he cared deeply regarding the underlying need, and as in the Senate, the committee led on this issue with true bipartisanship, for which we thank Ranking Member Jack Cera. Other members of the House who submitted and supported these amendments were Reps. Antani, Carfagna, Carruthers, Crawley, Ginter, Green, Keller, Kelly, Leland, McClain, Miranda, Patton, Rogers, Boyd, and Romanchuk.”
Critical Ohio-Israel Workforce and Business Development Initiative Also Funded
In addition, the Senate version funds another key priority: the Ohio-Israel Agricultural & Cleantech Initiative maintains its current funding level of $250,000 per year over the biennium. This is a unique, and now oft-imitated but never quite replicated, initiative that connects Ohio and Israel in business partnerships, commercial opportunities, technology transfer arrangements, and research and development collaborations across two critical industries.
“I’ve seen firsthand the work of OIACI,” said Beigelman, who sits on the Initiative’s Advisory Board, “and, I know the return on that modest state investment is manifold in the benefits it brings to both states and to the startups, small and medium sized businesses, universities, and research institutions looking to innovate and to solve real-world problems, including some of Ohio’s most pressing environmental challenges.”
June 12, 2019The Ohio Senate released their amended version of the state’s operating budget - Sub. HB 166 - for the upcoming two fiscal years (FY 20-21).
Ohio's Jewish Federations Daylong Fly-In Focuses on Security
On Wednesday, March 13, lay and professional leaders from Ohio’s Jewish Federations took to Capitol Hill to advocate for increased security funding for faith based and cause based nonprofits at high risk of terror attack.
“There’s no nice way to say this. A lot of violent people out there hate Jews and want to murder us,” said Howie Beigelman, Executive Director of Ohio Jewish Communities, the statewide government advocacy, public affairs, and community relations voice of Ohio’s eight Jewish federations.
“But we aren’t alone. Not in being targets, unfortunately. Many other religious or ethnic groups face similar violence and threats. And thankfully, we aren’t alone in fighting back. Maybe for one of the first times in Jewish history, law enforcement and policymakers have our backs.”
The delegation met with both of Ohio’s US Senators, Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Rob Portman (R-OH). Appointments were also set with fourteen of the state’s sixteen Congressional offices.
Even small communities today face big city security challenges, according to Rob Elston, the security director for the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation.
“We need to be here, together with our larger communities, telling our story to the decision makers. We’re doing our best to protect people, and we need help in doing it,” said Elston.
The group as a whole was one that could express the grave need from every angle. Four professional security directors , two community CEOs, several agency or federation executives and JCRC directors could address the practical security gaps and the funding necessary as well as the impact on community life and on the ability to provide social services and philanthropic donations to those requiring help.
“Since the Pittsburgh attack and the arrest in Toledo our community members have been trying to do more to keep everyone safe. We can’t do it alone, especially if we are to meet our mission of helping those in need,” noted Cathy Gardner, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton.
“That’s why it was so important for our leadership to join the Fly-In and why we found the meeting with our own member, Congressman Mike Turner, to be so critical and why it was so gratifying to hear his unqualified support.”
Indeed, based on very real, current safety priorities, the advocacy focused on the need to maintain and expand both FEMA nonprofit security grant programs, including the original Urban Area program but also the NSGP-S, created last year through the leadership of Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), which provided $10 million overall to states ineligible for the original grant program. Through that, Ohio nonprofits at risk of terror attack received nearly $600,000 in needed grants for target hardening against attack.
As well, the advocates focused on the need for armed security personnel, either as school resource officers or special duty officers, for nonpublic preschool and K-12 schools.
Security to guard houses of worship and schools is a top need of Joel Marcovitch, CEO of JewishColumbus, who appreciated the time all three Central Ohio Representatives, Troy Balderson, Joyce Beatty, and Steve Stivers gave the group. All that, along with the fact that it was a statewide mission, made the event particularly important to him. “It was each community supporting the other in their own advocacy,” he stated. “The need for security personnel in Columbus isn’t different than the need in Toledo or Akron. That’s a big part of what made the day so valuable.”
It wasn’t just the Ohio federations and the Jewish communities across Ohio who joined for this advocacy. Agudath Israel’s Ohio director, Rabbi Yitz Frank, was with the group for part of the day.
Rabbi Frank thought it was especially important that a bipartisan slate of members and offices met with the group. "It was so encouraging to see both our US Senators and our congressional delegation take such interest in the safety of the Jewish community. Their support is deeply meaningful to Jewish communities in Ohio and beyond."
On the national level, “JFNA, with its dedicated Washington Action Office led by William Daroff, and especially, their homeland security policy lead, Rob Goldberg, was instrumental in crafting our legislative advocacy,” added Beigelman.
Prior to the Fly-In, Beigelman notes the Jewish community’s national community security umbrella, SCN, was consulted. National Director & CEO Michael Masters and Deputy Director & COO Patrick Daly offered insight and expertise regarding working with DHS and on current security best practices for local law enforcement and nonprofit agencies.
Mark Dowd, the Director of SAFE Cincinnati also sits on a SCN committee looking at ways to leverage local needs and national expertise. “The right thing for us to do is to examine and address our local security needs in a way that also supports and boosts the similar needs of other Jewish communities across the country. We were very encouraged to hear that our Ohio Congressional representatives felt the same and offered their continued support for these collective efforts,” he remarked.
Beyond the immediate needs and legislative advocacy, the day was also an opportunity to update policymakers on innovative ideas and new directions in community safety, many of which require partnership with federal, state, and local law enforcement.
“No one can do this alone. We treasure our relationships with our local departments all the way up to the FBI and DHS,” remarked Jim Hartnett, Director of the Community Wide Security at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. “Going forward, it will be those connections and collaborations that make the difference. We want our elected officials to understand this value add and the true potential for such partnerships.”
And, everyone agreed that this week’s Fly-In wasn’t an end, but the beginning of an increased and sustained advocacy on community safety.
“We will keep at this,” said Beigelman. “Until everyone in every community is as safe as possible.”
Ohio Jewish Communities and Ohio’s Jewish Federations meet with nearly the entire Congressional Delegation on this critical communal need
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Safer Schools & Pre-Schools Grant Enacted in Ohio’s Budget
Nonpublic schools and pre-schools see new program for funding police officers
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Howie Beigelman, Executive Director; 614.463.1835 Ohio’s General Assembly passed the state’s biennial budget and Governor Kasich signed it into law on Friday, June 30. It included a historic
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new program to provide security personnel (school resource or special duty police officers) to chartered nonpublic schools and child care centers at risk of terrorism or hate crimes, including Jewish day schools and Jewish community centers.
“The vast majority of the recent threats across North America were aimed squarely at Jewish schools and pre-schools, and this new legislation will help keep all children, and the teachers and staff who work with them, safe,” said Howie Beigelman, Executive Director of Ohio Jewish Communities, which led the advocacy for the program.
Ohio faced a budget shortfall this year of over $1 billion, and even key priorities such as public safety met fiscal headwinds. This legislation was crafted to use state funds efficiently while still meeting this pressing public policy need. It creates a matching grant program and thus leverages state funds to provide more personnel to more locations. With expected matching funds this new initiative will be directing $1 million to much needed community safety via local law enforcement. The budget provides $250,000 per year in funding over the biennium.
“No child, and no parent, should ever have to fear a terror attack or violent hate crime will strike the very place they should feel safest,” noted Beigelman.
Ohio is fast becoming a national leader in homeland security and community safety. Coupled with the nonprofit security grant program enacted in December 2016, Ohio’s most vulnerable are now much safer. That program provided $7.3 million in “target hardening” grants to nonprofits statewide.
“In addition to our law enforcement partners, we’re incredibly proud of the bi-partisan support we received in the General Assembly, as well as our continuing partnership with Governor Kasich’s entire team. OBM Director Keen, DPS Director Born, and OHA Executive Director Zwayer have been valued – and candid – partners all along. In the Legislature, we commend the leadership of President Obhof, President Pro Tem Peterson, Majority Whip Manning, Senator LaRose and the senior leadership for working in a tough budget to meet priorities. Over in the House, Education Chairman Brenner understood this need from day one, and Speaker Rosenberger was in constant contact. Both Minority Leaders, Senator Yuko and Rep. Strahorn understood our community’s increased safety concerns as well. Both Finance Committee chairs, Ryan Smith and Scott Oelslager worked with us in a very tough budget.”
On the law enforcement side, leaders from the Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Cincinnati areas were partners in crafting the language and developing a program that meets security concerns and police agency staffing requirements.
“Make no mistake. The need is real. And our state’s leadership, in both the Governor’s office and the Legislature worked to meet it. In this budget environment, we consider the program’s authorization and the funding a strong message. We continue to work to secure other funding to keep as many children as possible safe,” concluded Beigelman.
February 22, 2017
In the wake of some sixty bomb threats against Jewish community centers and other Jewish institutions, Congress has stepped in - and up - in a big, and bipartisan way.
In a letter coauthored by Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Joe Crowley, signed by over 150 additional Members - including at least half the Ohio delegation - Congress asks the Attorney General, the Homeland Security Secretary, and the FBI Director to pull out the stops.
They also call for more funds to vulnerable nonprofits that are the classic soft target.
The full letter is here
Congress Steps in on JCC Security
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Yesterday, Governor John Kasich signed HB 384 into law. It had passed both chambers by wide, overwhelming, and bi-partisan margins.
Included in this law is funding of over $7.3 million to help nonprofits “target harden” their facilities against terrorist attack. Ohio is only the second state in the nation (after California) to enact such a program.
Statement by Ohio Jewish Communities on Governor Kasich's Signing of HB 384 and the Security Grant Program
January 5, 2017
“Governor Kasich’s signature now helps make Ohio’s nonprofits safer. For the Jewish community, already a top target, this couldn’t come at a more critical time. Just this week, we saw a potential hate crime targeting Jews in Cincinnati and we are seeing increased threats of all kinds here and nationwide. So this action is much needed and very welcomed.
“ We are grateful to the Governor for his leadership, extending beyond his office across the public safety and emergency management team throughout the administration. They are each willing partners, and all of our communities look forward to doing even more with our federal, state, and local law enforcement, counterintelligence, homeland security, and emergency response professionals. This law helps them keep us safer.
“Thanks are due as well to our champions in the Legislature, former Senate President (now State Representative) Keith Faber and House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and their dedicated policy staff.
“Safer schools, more secure synagogues, and more protected communal spaces. That’s both a very meaningful message and action, indeed.
“Thank you, Governor Kasich. Thank you, Rep. Faber. Thank you, Speaker Rosenberger.”
-- Howie Beigelman, Executive Director, Ohio Jewish Communities
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December 19, 2016
"With Governor Kasich's signature, Ohio becomes the latest state to stand up against the discrimination based on national origin inherent in efforts to boycott, divest, or sanction Israel. It's also a stand in support of free trade and academic freedom.
"For that alone, we, representing Ohio's Jewish communities statewide and a diverse coalition of business, academic, and faith leaders are profoundly grateful.
"But Ohio went a step further than anyone else. They included an opportunity for positive investment by the state and county treasurers in certain foreign bonds - including Israel's - allowing our state to stand with Israel in a meaningful way, helping to create even more business, trade, and research opportunities.
"Thank you Governor Kasich."
-- Howie Beigelman, executive director, Ohio Jewish Communities
Statement of Ohio Jewish Communities on Signing of HB 476
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Over $7 million to be made available with passage of "target hardening" grant program that makes State a national leader
Ohio Moves to Protect Nonprofits from Terrorism
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December 13, 2016
Last week, the Ohio Legislature passed a nonprofit security grant program to help nonprofits at risk of terrorist attack to upgrade and secure their facilities by providing grants of up to $100,000. The total funds available are approximately $7.3 million.
Senate President Keith Faber, after learning from Ohio Jewish Communities the vulnerabilities of nonprofit agencies including schools, synagogues, and community centers, led an effort to secure funding.
Together with the House, led by Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, they located unspent funds in the state budget that could be used for this purpose and together with the Kasich administration and Budget Director Tim Keen crafted a program that would help nonprofits become more secure.
Acts of terrorism unfortunately continue to threaten the security of Ohio citizens in what should be places of peace and safety,” President Faber said. “Helping our nonprofit organizations equip themselves to deal with this reality is important. Preparation saves lives."
"We live in uncertain times, and as a state and nation we must always be looking for ways to keep our fellow citizens safe from terror attacks,” Speaker Rosenberger said. “These grants will provide greater security and peace of mind for nonprofits, making it easier for them to continue their tremendous service on behalf of the people of Ohio.
"Even before the recent attack at OSU, FBI figures show Ohio is a central front in the domestic war on terror, with Columbus being one of a handful of cities to have two Joint Terrorism Task Force squads.
Last year, two Ohio Jewish day schools were the target of bomb threats and numerous instances of suspicious activity have been logged and investigated at Jewish sites across the state. Several Ohioans have been arrested and/or convicted on charges of plotting terror attacks and aiding ISIS.
Jewish institutions have particularly seen increased threats. "In the past year alone here in Columbus, we have had a bomb threat at a preschool and day school, an attack at a restaurant owned by an Israeli and now the terror attack on the campus of OSU. Our Jewish institutions in are vulnerable. I'm deeply appreciative that our state government is stepping forward to help us and others ensure that our constituents are safe," stated Gordon Hecker, President & CEO, Jewish Federation of Columbus.
The nonprofit sector has not been complacent, and has been ramping up their own efforts too.
“We believe there are increasing threats based on information we received from the Department of Homeland Security over the last few years. In that time, we have gone from spending zero dollars to nearly one million dollars for annual community security. We are spending additional large sums to upgrade physical security aspects of our community agencies and schools. We have also conducted serious training exercises with the entire community base. We believe we will have to spend even more annually in the upcoming years. We will have to make more security related technology upgrades and physical improvements to our community facilities,” noted Stephen H. Hoffman, President, Jewish Federation of Cleveland.
"Ohioans will be safer because of this action. Too often nonprofits lack the funds needed for basic safety," said Howie Beigelman, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities.
The new state program is modeled after a federal security grant program for nonprofits. Last year, due to advocacy by Ohio's congressional delegation led by Senator Rob Portman and Senator Sherrod Brown, Cleveland area institutions received over $200,000 in grants. Still, the program, while incredibly successful, has been woefully underfunded and most Ohio cities have never been eligible for it at all and even those once eligible have often found in recent years that their metropolitan area is ineligible. This leaves nonprofits statewide in dire need of security upgrades.
"As threats both morph and increase, the time to act is now. From Governor Kasich on down to OEMA Director Merick and our federal, state, and local law enforcement, we know everyone is doing all they can to stop attacks and keep us safe. But unfortunately we need to be ready. President Faber, Speaker Rosenberger, and Governor Kasich recognized this desperate need and acted quickly," added Beigelman.
Ohio becomes 15th State to Act Against BDS
Legislature passes bipartisan bill banning state contracts with companies engaged in BDS against Israel or others. Measure also includes potential to increase investment in Israel Bonds by millions.
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December 12, 2016
In overwhelming, bipartisan votes, HB 476 passed both the Ohio House and Senate. Cosponsored by Rep. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), the Majority Floor Leader and Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton), it bans state contracts with businesses that boycott, divest or sanction countries with which we enjoy free trade, “including Israel.” The legislation now heads to Governor John R. Kasich.
“Israel is a strong ally of the United States and a valuable economic partner with the State of Ohio. It was an honor to sponsor legislation that reinforces Ohio’s commitment and support for the State of Israel,” said Representative Schuring."
Yesterday, Ohio became the 14th state to pass anti-BDS legislation. This anti-discrimination legislation prevents BDS efforts from gaining a foothold within the state. This bill addresses our profound concern about discrimination against Israelis and Israeli businesses by those who oppose the right of the Jewish people to self- determination in our homeland. The state of Ohio joins other states who will not allow businesses that discriminate against Israel to conduct business with their state,” say IAN Executive Directors Geri Palast and Ethan Felson.
In addition, the bill includes language doubling (from one to two percent) the amount of funds the state treasurer or county treasurers may (but are by no means required to) invest in foreign bonds that meet certain criteria, including Israel Bonds. That measure was co-sponsored by Rep. Robert Sprague (R-Findlay) and Rep. Steve Slesnick (D-Canton).
Rep. Sprague noted “Increasing the allowed amount of foreign debt allows us to support strong allies like Israel-
when it makes sense for Ohio taxpayers. This type of solid return and low risk investment should be a priority for us since Israel has never in its history missed a bond payment.”
“I’m pleased to see that my colleagues felt it was important to invest in Israel in a manner that helps Ohio and Ohio taxpayers as well. In my eight and a half years in the Legislature, it’s been an honor representing not only my district, but serving all Jewish communities across Ohio, and this was a great ending note to my time in the General Assembly,” said Rep. Slesnick.
Both the overall bill and this specific portion relating to investment of the state and county portfolios in bonds had the full support of Treasurer Josh Mandel.Chris Berry, spokesman for Treasurer Mandel stated "Israel is the only country in the Middle East that shares the American values of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and treating men and women as equals. Treasurer Mandel applauds the legislature for their action on stopping the bigoted BDS movement."
"What a one-two punch to the BDS movement. First, Ohio becomes the latest state to pass legislation banning their discriminatory conduct. And then, it allows - if it makes good financial sense - for states and counties to invest in a proactive, positive action," said Howie Beigelman, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities.
The legislation, and the advocacy behind it, were supported by a coalition "as diverse as Ohio." In addition to Ohio Jewish Communities and the eight Jewish federations statewide, the coalition included an array of Jewish groups, human rights and civil liberties advocates, Christian supporters of Israel, and business and civic leaders.*
"With the passage of HB 476, truth prevails in Ohio over discrimination from the BDS movement," said Ed Douglas, Ohio Director of Christians United for Israel."
This bill wouldn't have passed without an active, engaged coalition and most certainly not without the dogged commitment of our sponsors, Rep. Schuring and Leader Strahorn. Thanks as well to Speaker Rosenberger, President Faber, and President-elect Obhof who made sure this was a priority before the Legislature adjourned for the year. As well, our gratitude goes to two amazing committee chairmen, Sen. Bill Coley and former Rep. Tim Brown, who gave all sides their say and kept hearings on schedule and civil. This could not have moved without all their support or determination," said Beigelman.
Joel Marcovitch, CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo stated "The passing of this bill represents the State's loud and clear message that boycotting the only Jewish state in the world is discriminatory in action and discriminatory based on national origin in nature. A huge debt of gratitude should go to those that made this bill possible and to those that voted on the right side of history."
In addition to the sponsors, committee chairs, and leadership there were some rank and file legislators who were instrumental." Beigelman added, singling out Rep. David Leland in the House and Senator Sandra Williams.
Originally passed in the House last month, the bill was amended slightly in the Senate to any nation with which Ohio enjoys "open trade, including Israel." While not looking to give preference to Israel, legislators and advocates alike wanted to ensure Israel was specifically mentioned since it is the only country currently facing such economic warfare.
In addition, in order to allay concerns over businesses unintentionally being caught by the bill's requirements, the definition of boycott was expanded to specifically note that legitimate business reasons wouldn't trigger the bill.
Eric Fingerhut, a former Ohio state senator and Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents who now serves as President & CEO of Hillel International, knows more than most about BDS as it affects college campuses nationally.
Fingerhut said “It’s encouraging to see Ohio and many other states around the country taking this major step forward in reaffirming their strong alliance with the State of Israel. I am especially proud of my home state and the Ohio General Assembly, in which I served. With the bipartisan support this legislation received, it is clear that a growing number of citizens and government leaders see the BDS movement for what it truly is. We call all those that are concerned with the future of Israel and its neighbors to join us in finding proactive solutions that bring peace and prosperity to people everywhere.”
Once signed by the Governor, Ohio will be the 15th state to combat BDS, and the 14th to do so legislatively (New York has an executive order).*
The coalition includes: Agudath Israel of America, American Jewish Committee, Christian Coalition of Ohio, Christians United for Israel, Hillel International, Israel Action Network, Israel Allies Foundation, Israel Leadership Institute, The Israel Project, JCPA, Orthodox Union, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, and the World Jewish Congress.