JCRC advocates for synagogue security, help for needy

Ron Halber, head of the Jewish Community Relations Council, speaks with leaders of Jewish nonprofit agencies. Photo by Suzanne Pollak
Ron Halber, head of the Jewish Community Relations Council, speaks with leaders of Jewish nonprofit agencies.
Photo by Suzanne Pollak

Last year, when swastikas and graffiti reading “All Jews Burn” were drawn near Young Israel Ezras Israel, Chabad Shul and Beth Sholom Congregation, security cameras in the Potomac synagogues were unable to photograph the culprits. Police arrested two teenagers after watching security footage at a nearby store.

During its 10th annual Montgomery County Advocacy Day, held April 15, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington requested that Montgomery County Council pay for new security equipment for those synagogues. The 35 leaders of area synagogues and Jewish agencies also urged the county to continue distributing grant money that they use to help the county’s neediest residents. Advocacy day is characterized by setting priorities for funding of Jewish agencies and then lobbying county officials.

The county is in the midst of putting together its budget for fiscal year 2016, which will begin July 1.

Many non-profits, including area Jewish social services agencies, receive grants from the county.


“We are basically looking to keep everything whole,” said Josh Sztorc, director of the JCRC’s Maryland government and community relations office.

But that may not be easy as the county is “in another recessionary cycle,” said Uma Ahluwalia, director of the county’s Health and Human Services department.

The department has a budget of $285 million in the current fiscal year’s budget.

County Executive Ike Leggett is proposing a cut of $5.7 million for fiscal 2016 throughout the department’s entire budget.

“There are many troubled youths in our county with parents who are struggling,” Ahluwalia said.

There has been “a significant growth of family homelessness” recently. Some of that increase is due to the large number of unaccompanied minors who arrived in the area from Mexico and other Latin American nations and need shelter, food and help in dealing with the trauma they experienced both in getting to Maryland and also from experiences they had in their birth country, she said.

A cut of $5.7 million means “there will be waiting lists. It’s going to be a struggle,” Ahluwalia said. However, she stressed, “We will not turn anyone away.” Currently, her department is not filling vacant positions.

Leggett’s proposal fiscal plan, which must be approved by the County Council, includes roughly $800,000 for Jewish social services agencies to help the needy.

The proposed budget includes 15 new grants, and “five of them went to Jewish agencies,” said JCRC Executive Director Ron Halber.

The JCRC is a member of Nonprofit Montgomery, an alliance of more than 80 organizations involved in improving the lives of county residents. The alliance is seeking an additional 4 percent inflationary adjustment to the contracts received to pay for services provided.

According to the JCRC, Montgomery County nonprofits serve more than half the county residents in at least one program and employ 10 percent of the county’s work force.

The County Council is expected to vote this summer on whether to mandate paid sick leave, and the advocacy day lobbyists urged council members to support this initiative. The activists also encouraged council members to keep funding a traffic mitigation pilot program that this school year took more than 3,000 students to and from seven private schools in the county, three of which are Jewish day schools. This year, the county spent $660,000 for the program.

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