Following the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, which left 49 people dead, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh immediately launched a fundraising effort to support the Muslim community there.
Last week, it sent more than $650,000 to Christchurch, including $60,000 raised by Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha.
“We opened this emergency relief fund in solidarity with the Christchurch and local Muslim communities, after the Pittsburgh Muslim community was so helpful and supportive after the attack on our own religious institutions last year,” said Brian Eglash, chief development officer of the Federation in a prepared statement. “None of us here anticipated this incredible outpouring of support from around the world.”
Through its New Zealand Islamophobic Attack Fund, the Federation raised more than $600,000. The fund closed on March 31 and, on June 25, the Federation wired the money to the New Zealand Jewish Council. The funds will be held by the Christchurch Foundation. Distributions will be made by the Muslim Advisory Panel.
“The total was way more than we anticipated,” said Adam Hertzman, director of marketing for the Federation. “The money came from all over the world, mostly not from Pittsburgh.”
Although the fund was only publicized on Facebook, the Federation receive more than 4,000 separate donations for its New Zealand Islamophobic Attack Fund.
Separately, Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha launched its own fundraising effort for Christchurch, raising more than $60,000. That money was consolidated with the Federation’s funds, then wired together to New Zealand, for a total of $666,430.55.
“The Jewish Federation often serves as the central fundraising entity for Jewish Pittsburgh, so we are grateful to Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha for trusting us to find the right partner in New Zealand,” said Jeffrey Finkelstein, president and CEO of the Federation, in a prepared statement. “The New Zealand Jewish Council is an all-volunteer organization, and we thank them for being such diligent and caring partners.”
The funds will be used to help the welfare of the victims and their immediate family, specifically for counseling and other support services, educational and vocational training, medical treatment and financial planning services, according to Hertzman.
Some of the funds also will be used to support joint Muslim/Jewish programming, he said.
“As a community who experienced an act of hate against us, we sadly understand all too well the pain that the Muslim community in New Zealand must be feeling,” Finkelstein said. “If there is a silver lining to this hateful act, it is the amazing outpouring of people who care, showing the worldwide support for the Muslim community in New Zealand.” PJC
— Toby Tabachnick