Washington Post: Shay Khatiri closely tracked the GoFundMe account he set up to help in the wake of the Tree of Life tragedy as it surpassed $1 million Wednesday evening and kept climbing.
The 29-year-old Iranian political refugee has been too busy, however, to yet count the number of offers of free Steelers and Penguins tickets from Pittsburghers both touched and impressed by his fundraising. They are sufficient in number, though, that he could attend many future sports events at no personal expense in Pittsburgh — a city he’s never been to — if he so chose.
“Honestly, after what has happened with this fundraising, I don’t think I’m ever going to be surprised by someone’s generosity,” Mr. Khatiri said in a phone interview shortly past noon Thursday, when the GoFundMe account stood at $1,040,397 contributed by 16,626 donors. (Of that amount, GoFundMe retains 2.9 percent as a processing fee, plus 30 cents per donation — a total of slightly more than $35,000 currently.)
The graduate student in international relations at Johns Hopkins University described in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interview Monday how he was spurred to action when a Jewish friend he was staying with told him of Saturday morning’s horrific shootings. He was groggy from a hangover after a Halloween party the night before, he explained, but he had experience setting up GoFundMe accounts and quickly set one up putting Tree of Life in the spotlight. The proceeds go directly to financial accounts designated by the Tree of Life congregation.
The Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District
Heinz History Center will collect artifacts, documents and social media from Tree of Life tragedy
A GoFundMe description reads: “An anti-Semite attacked and killed several attendees to a baby’s bris at a Pittsburgh synagogue. This fundraiser is meant to help the congregation with the physical damages to the building, as well as the survivors and the victims’ families. Respond to this hateful act with your act of love today.”
Mr. Khatiri told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Monday how, while he has never been to Pittsburgh, he would love to be able to attend a Steelers or Penguins game sometime. Pittsburghers quickly began sending offers intended for him, either directly or through the Post-Gazette as an intermediary. Some of the offers included lodging, airfare and other hosting, in addition to tickets.
One email to the Post-Gazette said: “Please let him know I will send him two Champions Club tickets for a Steeler game when he wants to go. ... His tolerance and love for all people ... is to be commended — this is what we mean when we say Love over Hate.”
Mr. Khatiri, who lives in Washington, D.C., said he’s very grateful for such offers and would like to visit the city, but it will depend on how much free time he has from studies and work.
“Basically, this has been consuming most of my life,” he said of media interviews and other aspects related to the fundraising. “I’m so behind in school that I need to catch up.”
In the meantime, the GoFundMe account fundraising goal, initially set at $50,000, is now listed at $1.2 million, as Mr. Khatiri sees no reason to stop striving for more after exceeding $1 million.
And it is far from the only fundraising on behalf of Tree of Life congregations, victims, survivors and other needs of the local Jewish community in the wake of a a killing spree that stunned the nation. Various organizations are seeking to assist with costs of burials, medical expenses, synagogue repairs, psychological counseling, security improvements and more.
Muslim charitable organizations have surpassed $225,000 in fundraising through the LaunchGood crowdfunding site. The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh has taken responsibility for turning those funds over to needs designated by Tree of Life’s representatives.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars more have been raised through contributions by other means online, which include:
• The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
• United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, which is matching contributions dollar for dollar up to a total of $100,000 from donors.
• The Pittsburgh Foundation, which is matching contributions up to a total of $150,000.
• Donations made directly to bank accounts of Tree of Life — by checks made out to either Tree of Life Victims and Family Account or Tree of Life Synagogue Account — and mailed to First National Bank of Pennsylvania, 1940 Murray Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15217, Attention: Tony North. Donors may also use the congregation’s website.
Law enforcement officials have warned the public about making donations to unfamiliar organizations seeking contributions in the wake of the tragedy, and they advise against giving out credit card information or clicking on links in emails unless the recipient knows the solicitations to be authentic.