image of capitol building
California state Capitol building in Sacramento. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

New state budget gives boost to Bay Area Jewish community

The California Jewish Legislative Caucus was able to push several of its priorities through the final state budget, including funding for a Holocaust and antisemitism training program run by S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services and for a grant-making program for nonprofits looking to improve their security.

Sen. Scott Wiener
Sen. Scott Wiener

State Sen. Scott Wiener, vice chair of the 18-member caucus, said that the group’s wish-list items focused on combating a surge in statewide antisemitic attacks, as documented by the Anti-Defamation League. The priorities were decided on in May.

“Fortunately,” Wiener said, “because the governor and the legislative community are supportive of our [Jewish] community, we were able to get pretty much everything we asked for. And I think in the long run, this budget is very positive in terms of confronting the hate that our community is experiencing. I’m very proud of what we were able to do.”

Wiener also said that a good budget year in California helped make it easier to get items passed. In all, Jewish priorities won $94.1 million in funding.

Approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom on June 28, the state’s overall budget, at $262.6 billion, is the largest ever. It includes stimulus payments to eligible Californians, an expansion of the state’s insurance program, and billions towards tackling homelessness. Nearly 40 percent of the budget is coming from a surplus and from coronavirus aid from Washington, D.C.

As for the items sought by the Jewish caucus that will impact the Bay Area, $50 million was allocated to the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Established as a permanent program in 2019 in the wake of the Chabad of Poway synagogue shooting and other attacks on religious institutions, the NSGP grants funds for hardening security infrastructure at nonprofits such as synagogues, mosques and schools.

In 2020, due to a state deficit caused by the pandemic, the program received no funding.

In conveying the need for robust security grant funding this year, the Jewish caucus pointed to New York State, which had allocated $45 million for a similar program in 2019. Also, the caucus noted, in prior years the demand far outstripped the supply of funds, making the grants extremely competitive. (State funding is supplemented by a federal initiative of the same name started after the Sept. 11 attacks. Lawmakers proposed $180 million for the program in the 2022 Appropriations Bill, which is still being considered by Congress.)

One of the organizations that plans on applying for NSGP funding is JFCS, which has 15 offices in the Greater Bay Area and has been affected by antisemitic incidents, including car vandalism, according to Anita Friedman, executive director of the agency since 1985.

Anita Friedman
Anita Friedman

The organization has received funding through the program in the past. “We are very grateful,” Friedman said.

JFCS is also to receive $3 million from other items passed in the state budget: $2 million for its Holocaust/antisemitism training program and $1 million for its Tauber Holocaust Library and Archives.

Funding for the training program was approved as part of AB 130, legislation devoted to education spending that was signed by Newsom on July 9.

The $2 million will be used to increase JFCS training throughout the state by widening access to seminars, workshops and other curriculum, Friedman said. So far, JFCS has shared its program with 30,000 children in 350 public schools in the state, she said.

Funding for the Tauber Holocaust Library and Archives, under AB 128, will go toward securing the organization’s 12,000-plus physical volumes (housed under specific humification and temperature control) and creating a fire safety infrastructure. The archive includes more than 2,000 recorded oral histories, books from Hitler’s private collection and many “irreplaceable” documents, Friedman said.

“This is a really important milestone,” she said of the $3 million allocated to JFCS. “These grants, to preserve the archives and [bolster] Holocaust education and [fight] antisemitism through NorCal and statewide, represent a growing acknowledgement that this type of education is important for the state’s children.”

Gabriel Greschler

Gabriel Greschler is a staff writer at J. You can reach him at gabriel@jweekly.com and follow him on Twitter @ggreschler.