Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday came to the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns & Rockaway in Lawrence to announce awards under a state grant that makes $25 million available to enhance security at nonpublic schools and community centers.
Cuomo told a cheering crowd of 400 students in the Orthodox school’s gymnasium that $2.1 million had been awarded to 45 private schools, day care centers and cultural museums on Long Island.
“We have zero tolerance for any anti-Semitism and any race-based violence,” Cuomo said. “We will not let it happen in our state.”
“We want every student, every teacher to know that when they come to school they are safe, that a school is a sanctuary, that they are protected,” he said.
The governor made the appearance after last week’s announcement of the release of New York’s Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes grant funds, his office said in a statement.
The program allocates $50,000 grants — and as much as $150,000 if a school has three campuses — that can be used for exterior “hardening” of a facility against the threat of attack, physical security enhancements, and/or training.
Hebrew Academy officials said they were thrilled with the governor’s visit and the $150,000 they won for their three campuses.
“It’s wonderful that he is taking interest in the private schools and the security of all of our children,” said Ari Solomon, executive director of the Hebrew Academy. “With what is going on in the world today, we need to protect our children.”
The academy, which has pre-K through grade 12, will use the money for security cameras, access codes, fencing and additional security guards, Solomon said.
Tara Bogart Spiess, the mother of twin seventh-graders at the Hebrew Academy, said, “I think it is incredible how New York will not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism.”
Cuomo said the funding was partially in response to a rise in hate groups and hate crimes.
“We are seeing more racial tension than ever before, more white supremacist groups than ever before, more Ku Klux Klan groups than ever before,” he said. “And we are seeing more acts of anti-Semitism than we have seen in years.”
State officials said the government is able to provide private religious schools with the funding because it is for security.
“Public safety is a secular responsibility of government, just as police and the fire department respond to 911 calls at any school, regardless of type,” said Hazel Crampton-Hays, a spokeswoman for the governor.
All the award winners were Jewish organizations except for two Catholic institutions — St. Thomas the Apostle School in West Hempstead and the Roman Catholic Church of St. Mary in East Islip.
The governor’s office credited Teach NYS with helping create the $25 million competitive grant program as part of the 2017 adopted state budget.
The group is part of the Teach Advocacy Network, which describes itself as a “nonpartisan organization advocating for equitable funding in nonpublic schools.” The network is a project of the Manhattan-based Orthodox Union.
“We are beyond thrilled that this grants program is being released to the institutions that need it most,” said executive director Maury Litwack of the Teach Advocacy Network. “All New Yorkers can appreciate the intention behind this bill: the safety and well-being of students in all schools.”