Programs to combat domestic violence and drug abuse in the Jewish community were among the items in the state’s $73.3 billion budget adopted last week by the state Legislature.
"Drug abuse is becoming an increasing problem in the Jewish community," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who noted that he helped secure for Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services in Brooklyn a $50,000 federal anti-drug grant, as well as several hundred thousand dollars in state money.
David Mandel, Ohel’s chief executive officer, noted that Ohel had developed a program two years ago to work with troubled teens, including those at risk and drug users. He said the organization’s board of directors raised money for the program because of the pressing need, insisting that it go forward even before government funding could be obtained.
Agudath Israel received $200,000 in state funding, and some will be used for a drug counseling program.
William Rapfogel, executive director of the Metropolitan New York Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty, said his organization would be receiving a $50,000 grant that would be leveraged to build a large residential shelter for battered women and their children.
"Domestic violence was a secret for many years in the Jewish community, but in the past few years it has begun to see the light of day and more and more people are feeling free to ask for help," he said.
"Women and children who are victims, as well as the abusers, are coming to grips with the fact that they need help. As a result, there has been a dramatic increase in need to provide them with services."
Met Council, a UJA-Federation agency, has decided to answer that need with a central shelter containing rooms with small apartments. Rapfogel said current shelters are large enough only for three or four battered women and their children. The facility under consideration would be large enough for as many as 100 women and their children, but Rapfogel said a study is under way to determine the building size.
In addition to providing sleeping accommodations, he said the complex would be large enough to provide child care, as well as vocational guidance and placement services.
"The danger for women today is when they leave the residence for these services," said Rapfogel. The budget also calls for providing $100 million ($33 million more than last year) for universal pre-kindergarten, a program that began a year ago. The increased funding is to allow for the enrollment of more 4-year-olds. Universal pre-K is slated to be phased in over five years.
Lee Tannenbaum, program director of the Jewish Community House in Bensonhurst, said the JCH will be among 11 community-based organizations in that Brooklyn neighborhood to provide the pre-K programs there. School District 20 in Bensonhurst does not have enough space to accommodate all 56 pre-kindergartners in its schools, Tannenbaum said, and has entered into a partnership with the community groups.
He said the JCH decided to join with the school district because it believes pre-K programs are the "wave of the future." Tannenbaum stressed that the curriculum will differ from the one in its private early childhood center for 3-to 5-year-olds because the latter stresses Jewish themes. That program can cost as much as $5,000 a year, depending on the number of hours per week.
Silver cited several other projects to be funded by the state this year. Among them:
# A $500,000 grant toward the construction of a $10 million Jewish Childrenís Museum in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
# A grant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center to conduct sensitivity training for police officers, similar to the successful program it now runs in California.
# A $100,000 grant for the Museum of Jewish Heritage-Living Memorial to the Holocaust to help cover operating expenses.
# A total of $1.7 million to settlement houses in the city, including several that are affiliated with UJA-Federation, such as the Educational Alliance and the 92nd Street Y.