Five Chabad-Lubavitch centers in Maryland received just shy of $350,000 in federal Homeland Security grants over the past two years.

According to Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, co-director with wife Rochel of the Baltimore-based Chabad Center and Lubavitch of Maryland, the disbursements funded security upgrades at the institutions, covering everything from the installation of intercoms and security cameras to coating glass windows to make them resistant to shattering. He said that in Baltimore, they even installed a wall to prevent cars from crashing into the building.

"We were informed by the local Jewish Federation's government relations council that there were grants available," said the rabbi. "Then we applied and got a professional security assessment."

The Department of Homeland Security, whose Urban Security Initiative's Non-Profit Security Grant Program administers the allocations, announced late last month that 308 separate establishments nationwide received grants amounting to at most $100,000. William Daroff, vice president for public policy and Washington, D.C., director of United Jewish Communities, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that 251 of the groups came from the Jewish community.

"Since Sept. 11, non-profits and Jewish institutions have been the victims of an alarming number of threats and attacks," said Daroff.

Authorities, however, were quick to point out that the announcement had nothing to do with an increased risk to Jewish communal buildings.

Along with other organizations, Chabad centers in the Maryland cities of Gaithersburg, Columbia, Rockville and Potomac joined Kaplan's institution in receiving the allotments. All told, non-profit institutions in Baltimore of every stripe received nearly $12 million in homeland security grants through Fiscal Year 2007, according to federal records.

Rabbi Shlomo Beitsh, an Israeli expatriate who co-directs the Chabad Israeli Center of Rockville with his wife Sara, told Haaretz last week that he plans to install security cameras and concrete barriers with the money.

Kaplan said on Sunday that congregants and community members feel more safe with the security enhancements.

"We have mikvahs in both Potomac and Baltimore," he explained. "The women feel much more secure now that there are cameras."

He added that more centers would apply for future funding: "There's other places that need more security."