Pittsburgh Synagogue Raises Funds for New Zealand Victims

The Pittsburgh synagogue that was the site of the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in the US last year is raising money for the Muslim community in New Zealand.

Following a rampage that killed 50 people in two mosques in Christchurch, the Tree of Life congregation started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for victims of the massacre. "We're unfortunately part of a club that nobody wants to be part of, and we wanted to reach out to New Zealand in the same way everyone reached out to us," synagogue president Sam Schachner told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. For some members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community, the New Zealand attacks bring painful memories of their own community’s massacre.

“It hurts in the middle of your chest right above your sternum," Cody Murphy, 18, told news channel NBC2. "It’s actual heartache that people have so much hate for who you are. That they hate everyone you know — people who are wonderful people. And then you hear that they’re worthless, that you’re worthless. I’m not scared anymore. I’m just tired.” The Jewish group said they began fundraising efforts after the Muslim community launched a crowdfunding campaign to help the victims and the families of the 11 congregants who died in Pittsburgh in October 2018. The following month, the “Muslims Unite to Help Pittsburgh Synagogue” campaign surpassed its $150,000 goal, collecting a total of $238,624 in four days.

It was not the first time the Muslim community rallied support for Jews. An online fundraiser raked in more than $100,000 to restore a defaced Jewish cemetery in February 2017. Political activist Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi set up the fundraising page at the time. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has also started an online campaign on the organization’s website. “Unfortunately we are all too familiar with the devastating effect a mass shooting has on a faith community,” Meryl Ainsman, chair of the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, said in an online statement. “We are filled with grief over this senseless act of hate. May those who were injured heal quickly and fully, and may the memories of the victims forever be a blessing.”

About the Author

Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and US politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.