Amid the grief and horror of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that killed 11 people and wounded six others, members of many faith traditions are rallying to show a united front against bigotry, hatred and anti-Semitism.
Notably, an online campaign led by Tarek El-Messidi, a Muslim-American activist in Philadelphia and founder of the nonprofit CelebrateMercy, paved the way with a crowdfunding effort that raised tens of thousands of dollars within the first few hours after the shooting.
According to a rolling update on the LaunchGood site, El-Messidi’s call for cash contributions set an original goal of $25,000, only to see it exceeded in the first six hours.
A new goal of $50,000 was established and, as of Sunday afternoon, that goal was busted and the new goal of $75,000 is sure to be broken with nine additional days to go in the campaign.
Muslims, let’s stand with our Jewish cousins against hate, bigotry, & violence. https://t.co/RCl4p4AOGV
— Tarek El-Messidi (@Elmessidi) October 27, 2018
On the CelebrateMercy/LaunchGood website, the crowdfunding effort aims to assist shooting victims, “whether it is the injured victims or the Jewish families who have lost loved ones.” The site also notes:
Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there there is no place for this type of hate and violence in America. We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.
Police arrested Robert Bowers, 48, in Saturday’s mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. He has been charged with 29 offenses, including hate crimes.
On Saturday, thousands gathered for an interfaith prayer vigil at Pittsburgh’s Sixth Presbyterian Church, filling the sanctuary with grieving people of various faiths across the community.
According to a news report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Rev. Vincent Kolb, a pastor at Sixth Presbyterian, borrowed words from its famous congregant Fred Rogers, the children’s show host, to comfort those in attendance.
“It is in that spirit of neighborliness that we gather here tonight to be allies to our Jewish neighbors who have been victimized and traumatized by this tragedy,” Kolb said.
To be sure, ecumenical voices have loudly demonstrated their shared grief for the shooting victims, which has been described as the worst attack on worshipping Jews in American history, according to the American Jewish Archives. Additional prayer vigils are planned across the country this week.
In a separate fundraising campaign, Shay Khatiri, an Iranian who currently lives in Washington, DC, initiated a GoFundMe effort, according to Khatiri’s profile on the website. Khatiri, who doesn’t have an apparent link to Pittsburgh or the victims, tweeted he was moved enough to donate to help those in need and wanted to offer the opportunity for others to join him, hoping it would go viral.
That’s a fair question. I woke up today to my friend telling me what happened. My first reaction was “I’m gonna donate a little money to the synagogue to help them recover.” Then I realized that my donation would be too little to make any change, but I could make a viral campaign
— Shay Khatiri (@ShayKhatiri) October 28, 2018
Additionally, Muslim-Americans and other online activists took to social media, using the hashtag #Muslims4Pittsburgh to promote crowdfunding campaign for the shooting victims and their families.
Another GoFundMe campaign for The Tree of Life has raised over $247,000, exceeding its initial goal of $100,000, which is now set at $1 million. The Tree of Life synagogue is also accepting donations on its website, according to a post on the GoFundMe page.