SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) — The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee received a $1 million grant from the state.
The grant, which is earmarked for security needs, was signed and approved by Governor Ron DeSantis on June 2, 2021.
The Federation’s CEO said they’ve been trying to get these funds for two years.
“We are in a world today of people who dislike minority groups, and unfortunately as a Jewish community, we are at the top of the heap of that,” Howard Tevlowitz said. “This is going to go a long way. We are really grateful to the governor, to James Buchanan, to Joe Gruters and to Fiona McFarland for really doing a yeoman’s job to help us get this.”
The money will go toward security and safety enhancements at the Federation’s 33-acre campus. The upgrades include 24-hour security checkpoints at the entrance and exit, advanced software for efficiently tracking and identifying visitors, adequate outdoor lighting, and safe rooms.
Due to the conflict overseas, Tevlowitz said anti-Semitic attacks have been on the rise.
“Anti-Semitism is up about 80% over the last four weeks, and it is raging,” he said. “We have to keep up with the times, and we have to keep up with the technology, and this is going to enable us to do that.”
Just last month, the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti. Closer to home, two Jewish temples in Sarasota were targeted by a vandal last summer.
“We hired a security director last year in 2020, and he has really been charged with working with all Jewish communal organizations,” Tevlowitz explained. “He has done assessments with every organization, worked with the sheriff, worked with the FBI, worked with the joint and terrorism task force on understanding threats that we are seeing right now and how we can both deal with physical security as well as cyber security.”
The CEO explained the grant will also go toward a new training center.
“Federation’s security partner, Secure Community Network (SCN), will assist with centralized security planning as well as training and resources on such subjects as First Aid, CPR and threat awareness,” the Federation explained in a news release. “This prevention-based program for schools, health providers, community organizations and other educational partners will ensure our community is prepared and protected.”
“What we are really trying to do is build a robust the training center here that really serves all needs of the community,” community security director Jeff S. said. “Besides myself training, we are really looking at bringing in some of the foremost trainers in various areas and really make this a community spot for the best training out there,” he explained.
Tevlowitz said the training center should be open by this fall.