Sam Schachner, president of the congregation whose Tree of Life building was the site of a shooting massacre that left 11 worshipers dead, said, “We’re unfortunately part of a club that nobody wants to be a part of, and we wanted to reach out to New Zealand in the same way everyone reached out to us.”
“After the March 15 attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, we feel compelled to come to the aid of those communities, just as our Jewish community was so compassionately supported only a few short months ago by people around the world of many faiths,” the GoFundMe page reads. “We recall with love the immediate, overwhelming support Tree of Life received from our Muslim brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh.”
On Friday, a 28-year-old white supremacist allegedly killed dozens attending prayers at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch.
Officials said the death toll had reached 50 Sunday after police found another victim while removing bodies from the mosques. Thirty-six people remain hospitalized.
The Tree of Life fund-raiser had reached $2,736 of its $100,000 goal by Sunday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the fund was established.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh also is raising money to help the victims in New Zealand.
Members of the Tree of Life congregation also attended Sunday classes at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh in support, said Mr. Schachner.
“It was a wonderful way to continue a connection and to build on, as our rabbi says, love instead of the ‘h’ word,” he said.
These acts of kindness follow similar ones shown by the Muslim community after the anti-Semitic attack in Pittsburgh.
Following the Oct. 27 mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, where a gunman killed 11 worshipers from the three congregations that use the facilities there and wounded several others — the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history — the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh raised more than $150,000 just two days after the attack.
The LaunchGood campaign, titled “Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue,” eventually raised a total of $238,624, according to the LaunchGood fund-raising website.
Soon after the synagogue shooting in October, Mr. Schachner said, members of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Québec City, which was the site of a mass shooting in January 2017, met at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh with members of the congregations that worship at Tree of Life, including Dor Hadash and New Light.
“They were incredibly helpful to us, and it was an incredibly moving experience,” Mr. Schachner said.
“We will certainly continue to reach out in various ways, but we also want to give them time. I can’t imagine all that they’re going through.”
Tree of Life will work with GoFundMe to ensure that all funds are transferred to an organization authorized to provide support to the Christchurch families and community, a GoFundMe news release said.
Mr. Schachner said he hoped they would be able to help with practical needs.
“Although unfortunately all we want is to have our family and our friends back, at the end of the day these incidents benefit from people stepping forward to make sure there’s appropriate mental health and money for victims’ families to get, as people can lose a primary wage earner. And we don’t know what type of damage is done to their house of worship, and we want to help with that,” he said.
“To the families going through the most difficult moments in your lives: the Jewish community of Pittsburgh is with you. Our hearts are with you. We hold you in our prayers,” the fund-raiser post said.
“Each community is a little bit unique, but what we share is a desire for love to conquer hate, and for all of us to have a safe place to pray,” Mr. Schachner said.