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Jewish Institutions Use Homeland Security Grants To Improve Safety After Threats

HUNTINGTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Multiple Tri-State Area synagogues and Jewish centers are applying for, and receiving, Homeland Security funding in the interest of safeguarding their institutions.

"Sadly, hard to believe -- hard to believe – hatred that we call anti-Semitism has become viral in America in the year 2017, and we've got to figure out a way to stop it," said Rabbi Charles Klein of the Merrick Jewish Center.

As CBS2's Jenifer McLogan reported, Klein and his center will be boosting security with the help of federal funds.

"We were just granted $75,000 from Homeland Security to harden the shell of our building," he said.

Security companies on Long Island are getting last-minute phone calls.

The Massapequa-based surveillance company IntraLogic Solutions is in the midst of a $5 million expansion. It was just named to set up its smartphone-based system at one of the oldest synagogues in the state.

Lee Mandel, of IntraLogic Solutions, said the upgrades to the Huntington Jewish Center were paid for by a $100,000 grant from the DHS, and is similar to what has been installed in some schools, WCBS 880's Sophia Hall reported.

"They have the capability, when they hit the emergency panic button -- which is located in various places throughout the facility -- it automatically will lock any exterior doors that are tied to the system, flash strobe lights so patrons and people coming to the facility will know not to enter, call the police most importantly, giving them accurate information," Mandel said.

Security cameras have also been installed around the outside of the building.

"We're able to remotely monitor the perimeter of the facility to make sure no one's where they shouldn't be," Mandel said.

The recent upgrades come after a spate of threats and anti-Semitic attacks targeting Jewish institutions across the country.

On Thursday, the Jewish Children's Museum in Brooklyn received a bomb threat, prompting an evacuation of the facility. The threat was unfounded.

On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League said it received bomb threats at four of its offices, the same day more Jewish Community Centers across the country were also targeted in a new round of threats.

The state now wants to increase criminal penalties for acts of religious hatred.

"We put a bill together – collectively; both sides of aisle -- to look at what we are seeing across the country; across the state with these acts of vandalism and violence," said state Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford).

The Mid-Island JCC had a bomb threat called in last week, and is eager to contact Homeland Security.

"They have made funds available to organizations all over New York state for extra security," said Rick Lewis, chief executive officer of the Mid-Island JCC. "We are, you know, going to be writing for it as well. The competition's going to be fierce this year."

Funds are available to help stop threats, vandalism and desecration at religious sites.

"The Urban Area Security Initiative is how funding is driven to City of New York, Nassau County, Suffolk County, and that is going to be the vehicle by which you put would put grants in to do specific things," said former New York State Homeland Security Liaison Michael Balboni.

IntraLogic has a grant writer to help religious institutions apply for the taxpayer-funded dollars.

The religious centers expect to install as many as 75 cameras inside and outside the facilities.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill met with New York Jewish leaders at a Staten Island JCC that received a bomb threat last week.

Cuomo has previously ordered a task force to investigate the uptick of threats.

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