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May 12, 2015 3:47 pm

Melbourne Jewish Center Receives Half-Million Dollar Government Grant to Bomb-Proof Building With Security Wall

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Youngsters at the Beth Weizmann Community Center's Yom Ha'atzmaut Family Festival. The center received a government grant to build a new security wall. Photo: Facebook.

A Jewish center in Melbourne, Australia received a $500,000 government grant to build a security wall that will make the building bomb-resistant following heightened concerns of terror attacks, local publication The Age reported on Monday.

The funding from the Victoria state government will go toward the $1.3 million wall for the Beth Weizmann Community Center in Caulfield, which is home to 25 Jewish organizations and the Lamm Jewish Library of Australia.

Chairman of the center, Sam Tatarka, said the building has received hate mail and hoax packages, and dealt with antisemitic vandalism and trespassers. Some of the Jewish groups based at the center have faced threats and authorities have now recognized the building as a high-profile target, he said.

The Weizmann Center was also the target of a potential terrorist attack, The Age reported. The incident prompted the local community to strengthen security at schools, offices and religious sites.

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Tatarka said the public has a responsibility to take action against violence by extremists.

“The prominence of the building has brought it to the attention of people who are unfriendly towards us and it has been identified on far-right websites as being the ‘home of the Jews,'” he said. “It is unreasonable in a multicultural society to expect a particularly vulnerable group of whatever description to have to fend for itself when what we’re facing is a community-wide problem.”

“If we recognize that extremism is a community issue, rather than a particular segment of the community issue, then tackling extremism ought to be a communal responsibility, not a segmented responsibility,” he added.

The Beth Weizmann center is owned by the Zionist Council of Victoria, which Tatarka is president of. He called on the Commonwealth to cover the rest of the funding needed for the security wall, saying Jewish centers in Australia and abroad were a “prominent, vulnerable and long-standing target” of terrorist attacks.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has been lobbying Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to match the funding, The Age reported. The state’s Multicultural Affairs Minister Robin Scott said the donation would guarantee safety at the center and strengthen “social cohesion.”

Last year, a similar bomb-proof wall was built at a Jewish school in Sydney. The Yeshiva Centre in Bondi built the concrete barrier with funds donated by members of the community, as well as a half-million dollars granted by the federal government in 2012 as part of its Secure Schools Program.

The funding for the Beth Weizmann center comes after counter-terrorism police on Friday arrested a Melbourne teenager who faces two terrorism-related charges, according to The Age. Police allege the 17-year-old planned to use a homemade explosive device at a public event this week.

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