Of prime importance to OU Advocacy (OUA) is protecting our synagogues, schools, and other gathering places from antisemitic attacks. In 2022, OUA successfully worked with elected officials and coalition partners to dramatically increase funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) to $250 million. NSGP grants, administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, fund security upgrades and the hiring of contract security guards across our communities. OUA is currently working with allies including DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Senator Chuck Schumer to increase NSGP funding to $360 million for 2023.
In 2022, the American Jewish community saw another assault on a synagogue – this time in Colleyville, Texas. As part of our response, OUA convened an emergency virtual national meeting for rabbis and other Jewish community leaders with the most senior U.S. officials including Attorney General Merrick Garland, Secretary of DHS Alejandro Mayorkas, FBI Director Christopher Wray, as well as key White House officials.
Finally, OUA worked with bipartisan members of Congress and coalition partners to craft the Pray Safe Act, which passed the U.S. Senate in April and is pending in the House of Representatives. This legislation will establish a new office at DHS specifically dedicated to the security of houses of worship and other religious institutions.
OU Advocacy works to support the security and welfare of the State of Israel and a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. In February, OUA facilitated a visit by the newly installed U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, to OU Israel’s Zula Center. This was an important opportunity for Amb. Nides to see and engage with the work of the OU in Israel.
Ahead of President Biden’s historic trip to Israel in July 2022, OUA leaders engaged with senior members of the president’s National Security Council team to advocate for key pronouncements and policies that were ultimately made by Mr. Biden during his visit.
After decades of determined advocacy, there are no longer any constitutional barriers to governments providing funding support to religious schools, houses of worship, and other faith-based institutions. That is the essence of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Carson v. Makin. The 6-3 ruling held that it was unconstitutional for Maine to provide tuition support for families in rural areas to send their children to private schools but prohibit them from using the funds to attend religious private schools. Ahead of the ruling, OUA filed a “friend of the court” brief and published an essay in the Wall Street Journal urging this result.
OUA worked with bipartisan allies in Congress—Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Hoeven (R-ND)— to have new legislation crafted by OUA, the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act, incorporated into the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden last November. This creates a new Department of Energy program—funded with $50 million in its first year—that will award grants to nonprofits to support making their buildings more energy efficient via the installation of new HVAC systems and the like. The grant funds are specifically available to subsidize the purchase of the new energy system materials. OUA is working aggressively to have the Energy Department implement the new program this year.
The OU Advocacy Center was the heart and soul of this bill. It’s not right that houses of worship and nonprofits don’t have the resources to both pursue their missions and seek energy efficiency.”
OUA also worked with key Democratic allies—including Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Joe Manchin (D-WV)—to amend an existing federal tax deduction supporting energy efficiency building upgrades (known as 179D deductions) so that it can be used by nonprofit entities, such as shuls and schools, when they upgrade their buildings. The law’s revision was included in the “Inflation Reduction Act” enacted in August and will enable nonprofits to use the deduction by making its value transferable to the contractor designing and installing the building upgrades.
The combination of the new grant program and newly available tax deduction will be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to individual schools and shuls in the short term—as they implement energy-efficiency renovations and, in the long term, will reduce the operating costs borne by shuls, schools, and other entities and reduce emissions that harm the environment.
The OU Advocacy Center had a profoundly positive impact on our community this past year. OUA delivered record resources for our community’s security in grants from the Department of Homeland Security and served as the convener for the top federal officials to speak with our community leaders about the fight against antisemitism. OUA also saw the result of decades of determined advocacy with a historic Supreme Court ruling that ensures support for our shuls and schools in government programs. OU Advocacy makes a difference in the most important ways.”