May 18, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 18, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Infrastructure Bill and Our Shuls

Joined by Democrats and Republicans, President Joe Biden signed the infrastructure bill at the White House last month. Our community will certainly benefit from investments in rail, roads and airports. For those of us who have nearly missed the start of Shabbat sitting in traffic or have dealt with delayed flights due to runway constraints, we all have a story about how America’s infrastructure needs to be improved.

However, nonprofits in our community have a very unique opportunity because of this historic bill. The Orthodox Union and the Jewish Federations of North America worked with Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota on an innovative pilot grant program. Buried deep in the thousands of pages of the bill, this program authorizes the Department of Energy to award non-profits up to $200,000 to address critical energy efficiency updates within their facilities.

While there are many non-profits that will pursue this new grant funding, we believe this and other funding sources represent a critical opportunity for the American Jewish community.

With aging facilities, increasing expenses and capital costs, we must begin a serious conversation about our energy use. It is beautiful when our shuls and yeshivot are packed 18+ hours a day, but increased foot traffic means increased energy use.

In our lifetime, the frum community has grown exponentially in the United States. In some instances, our community has built impressive new facilities. In many instances, we have acquired and repurposed older facilities from non-Jewish owners. In other instances, communities have davened in the same shul for over five decades. In all instances and in all states the one constant is that the price of a kilowatt of electricity has grown.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the cost per KwH (kilowatt hour) has increased by over 5% just since September 20201. These numbers differ dramatically in different regions. The average cost in Florida is 11.13 cents while New Jersey, for example, is 14.24 cents. Next door in New York, the average is 17.62 cents. Kehillot in California are very well paying upward of 21 cents a KwH!

In our years involved in the Jewish community, we have seen firsthand how difficult it can be to get congregants to invest in capital expenses like updating the energy efficiency of a facility. We love scholars in residence, innovative programs and new seforim, but we must have a discussion about how investments today will save countless dollars in the long run. We can and we must modernize windows, utilize advanced insulation, and audit (and, most likely, change) the efficiency of light bulbs and hot water heaters.

No one really likes to pay for these less glamorous items that are a critical part of our daily Jewish life, but we hope that the Department of Energy’s new grant program will incentivize an earnest discussion in communities large and small. We are convinced that beyond the federal government, there are more opportunities to find meaningful funding.

In the months ahead, as the Department of Energy formalizes the availability of these new grants, we have committed to utilizing our knowledge of the Jewish community and understanding of the federal grant making process to guide Jewish non-profits through this important discussion. Our hope is that making these important enhancements to facilities now will lower monthly energy costs for years to come.

With creative planning, our community can collectively save millions of dollars in rising electric costs in the decade ahead. We are excited to work with congregations and schools that are ready to think boldly. We stand ready to schedule a time to meet and talk in depth about your energy use and answer any questions about this new federal grant program.

For more information visit https://ksadvocacy.com/non-profit-assistance/

Keystone Strategy + Advocacy is a unique bipartisan government affairs and public relations firm. Although they are headquartered across the street from the US Capitol, their work occurs daily across time zones and continents. They work at the highest levels of Washington, but their accomplishments span the globe.

For nearly a decade, Ari Mittleman held various senior roles with a US Senator. He assists international and domestic clients with best practices for engaging key American stakeholders to run the most effective advocacy and public relations campaigns. Ari is the author of “Paths of the Righteous: Stories of Heroism, Humanity and Hope.”


Rabbi Yechiel Shaffer is the rabbi of the 150+ family congregation, the Pikesville Jewish Congregation of Baltimore, Maryland. Rabbi Shaffer received his semicha from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University and a Masters in Education from the Azrieli Graduate School of Yeshiva University.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles