Safety gelt: Gov. DeSantis proposes $18M for Jewish school security, education services

Safety gelt: Gov. DeSantis proposes $18M for Jewish school security, education services

The Sunshine State has seen increased antisemitism in recent years.

Jewish day schools, museums and memorials throughout Florida would receive more than $18.2 million through Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed budget for the next fiscal year. Roughly half those funds would pay for security.

DeSantis’ office released a $114.8 billion spending plan for the 2023-24 fiscal year. The Governor said the plan, a $3.8 billion increase over the current one, reflects the Sunshine State’s strong financial position heading into 2023.

That includes a $5 million earmark for security upgrades and facility improvements at the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg. Another $4 million to hire full-time guards to protect Jewish day schools from “anti-Semitic and terroristic threats they may face.”

“Funds are provided to Jewish day schools that have legitimate concerns from groups on the State Department of Terrorist watch list and from anti-Semitic attacks,” a description of the budget apportionment says.

Local governments would also receive $1 million in grants for facility repairs, maintenance and construction and Jewish day schools statewide, a $500,000 increase over the year prior.

There has been a rise in antisemitism across the Sunshine State in recent years, including neo-Nazi protests, repeated displays of swastikas and other imagery, distribution of antisemitic materials and related violence.

Last week, Republican Rep. Mike Caruso of Delray Beach filed a measure to make many of those actions a third-degree felony. “I hope I speak for all the legislators, my fellow legislators, that enough is enough,” he said.

Other one-time budget set-asides the Governor proposed for Jewish nonprofits include:

— $1.45 million for the Children’s Ability Center and Eagles’ Haven locations of the Jewish Adoption and Family Care Options, which provides services to abused and neglected children in South Florida.

— $998,400 for mental health services at Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services in Boca Raton.

— $920,000 for a Community Access Life Line (CALL) and mental health provisions at Alpert Jewish Family Services of Palm Beach County. Caruso sought a $270,000 standalone appropriation in last year’s budget for the services, which ended up only getting $35,000.

— $900,000 for cultural opportunities programming at the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in Dania Beach.

— $652,760 for Jewish Community Services of South Florida, of which $400,000 will cover long-term care services.

— $333,499 for the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach. A 2021 request for that sum by former Miami Beach Rep. Michael Grieco said the funds would pay for professional development seminars for teachers, educational resources for all 67 school districts in Florida, including in-person and virtual programming, and support for visiting scholars, guest speakers and specialists.

— $300,000 to establish a “Panhandle Holocaust Education & Teaching Training Center” to broaden teacher training and educational outreach.

— $250,000 to support Holocaust survivor support at Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services in Clearwater.

— $149,537 for a senior meal program at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie.

Recurring funds include $1 million for the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center, $750,000 for the Florida Holocaust Museum, $309,000 for statewide Holocaust victims’ assistance administration, $100,000 for the state Task Force on Holocaust Education and $66,501 for the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach.