A ‘stronger than hate’ donation to Tree of Life synagogue
A local T-shirt printer and his family presented the Tree of Life synagogue with an $18,000 donation Friday– money his business earned from its sale of the iconic “Stronger than Hate” shirts.
The symbol – the traditional Steelers logo with the yellow diamond replaced with a Star of David and designed by Tim Hindes – became a rallying cry in Pittsburgh and beyond in the aftermath of the Oct. 27 massacre at the Squirrel Hill synagogue.
The anti-Semitic rampage left 11 people dead among the three congregations: Tree of Life, Dor Hadash and New Light.
Larry Barasch, who runs 123Shirt.com out of his Robinson basement, began selling the shirts emblazoned with the iconic logo with the promise to donate the proceeds to the congregations. Specifically, the donation was made in honor of his uncle, 80-year-old Judah Samet, whose life was likely saved by being late to synagogue that day.
“Because we’re members of the community – because our uncle, a Holocaust survivor, fortunately was late that day – we had to do something, Barasch said. “This was our way of giving back – doing whatever we could so that people all over the world could show their support.”
He stressed that this check is just the first – Barasch has said that the fundraiser is indefinite.
“Your gift is great because you worked very hard to produce the money,” Samet said to his nephew. “It didn’t come easy.”
The amount for the first check, $18,000, was chosen carefully.
“The number 18 is very significant in the Jewish faith,” he said. “Yes, it’s a number, but in Hebrew, it’s pronounced ‘chai,’ and ‘chai’ means life.”
In Judaism, he said, one should strive to give monetary gifts and donations in increments of 18.
“It’s referred to as ‘giving a chai,’” he explained. “Eighteen doubled is called a double chai. Our value is 1,000 times chai.”
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, of the Tree of Life, accepted the check, made out to the victims’ fund, on behalf of the three congregations.
“We accept this very generous gift know that it can provide some comfort to all those who suffered and that we can build life with this generous (donation),” Myers said.
Samet, born in Hungary, survived 10 months in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during the Holocaust. As he pulled in to a handicap parking space at the synagogue the morning of the shooting, it was about 9:49 a.m. – he was four minutes late. A man rapped on his window and told him to leave.
He said he likes the idea of “Stronger than Hate,” but he said he does not believe that love is stronger than hate.
“The truth is, love is easier than hate. You don’t have to do anything,” Samet said. “You don’t have 60 million die because they loved too much.”
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.