Florida House approves millions to increase security at Jewish schools

'It's so appropriate that our legislators in Tallahassee are coming to our security assistance right now,' Marc Hopin says
Posted at 6:14 PM, Nov 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-07 18:14:32-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — It's been one month since the surprise Hamas attack on Israel and on Tuesday, Florida lawmakers pledged support to help keep Jewish students and families safe.

During this week's Florida special session, the House approved a bill that will funnel millions of dollars to Jewish day schools, preschools and community centers to increase security.

State Representative Randy Fine sponsored the bill and spoke passionately on the House floor.

"We're going to allocate $45 million that's not going to help a single child learn how to read or do math, or learn history," he said, "it's going to be to keep children safe."

The bill does two things. It funds a Nonprofit Security Grant Program under the Division of Emergency Management with $20 million that can go to nonprofit organizations, including houses of worship, schools, museums and community centers that are at high risk for violent attacks or hate crimes. The money can be used to physically harden locations, as well as to hire and train security.

It sets aside another $25 million specifically for Jewish day schools and preschools to increase their security. Those funds will be under the Department of Education. Fifteen million of it will be for grants for hardening security measures and the other $10 million will be for grants for things, such as hiring and training security personnel.

Marc Hopin CEO of Alpert Jewish Family Service November 2023
Alpert Jewish Family Service CEO Marc Hopin shares his gratitude for the support the state is receiving from lawmakers with regard to safety and security in Jewish schools.

Marc Hopin is the CEO of Alpert Jewish Family Service. He was in Tallahassee days after the Oct. 7 attack and spoke to lawmakers about the issue.

"I don't believe it was my idea," he said, "but I did suggest that the governor allocate some funds to provide security to the Jewish community given what has happened."

Hopin said the past month has been unlike anything he's ever experienced.

"What happened on 10/7, it's like there must have been a cork on this antisemitism bottle and it just popped off like a bad bottle of champagne. It's just pouring out and making a mess in the Jewish community," he said. "Every day we are getting calls from someone asking us to help them, just process what's going on and letting them know that it is OK to be mad, to be angry, to be sad, to be crying. But it's also still OK to go on with your life."

Hopin said he has increased security at his own facility, adding an armed officer. He's grateful for this new legislation and looks forward to applying for the funds once the bill passes the Senate and is signed into law.

Parent Ifat Aloni November 2023 security in Jewish schools legislation
Parent Ifat Aloni is pleased about the new legislation approved by Florida lawmakers to fund security in Jewish schools.

"I think it's terrific and our large Jewish population here, it's so appropriate that our legislators in Tallahassee are coming to our security assistance right now," he said.

However, Hopin is also focused on the hope and the miracles he sees in the community every day.

Parent Ifat Aloni is happy about the legislation.

"We feel unsafe and I think a Jewish school is a big target," she said. "When we bring more money to get more security, it will make the kids feel safer and also for the parents to feel protected too."

Jewish Family Service is hosting support groups for people struggling with the events unfolding in Israel.

For more information about the support groups, click here.