Squirrel Hill synagogue shooting spurs more than $6M in donations |

Squirrel Hill synagogue shooting spurs more than $6M in donations

Natasha Lindstrom
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Carnegie Mellon University students, from left, Shahzad Khan, Emily Suarez, Atticus Shaindlin, Larry McKay, Amanda Ripley and Cate Hayman sing for donations for victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018 on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill.

Donations totaling more than $6 million have been made to support those affected by the Oct. 27 synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood that left 11 dead and six injured.

The donations have come from a wide range of sources, with individuals giving as little as $1 to help and some private foundations, religious groups and Pittsburgh sports teams committing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Money already has been disbursed to help with immediate needs such as funeral costs and medical bills, increased security at local synagogues and temporary worship space for the three congregations displaced by the shooting (Tree of Life, Dor Hadash and New Light).

Millions more will be spent on longer-term needs.

The largest fund, the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh’s Victims of Terror Fund, accumulated more than $4 million as of this week, federation spokesman Adam Hertzman said.

None of that money has been spent, Hertzman said. The federation separately donated $2,000 each to the families of the victims and spent $50,000 a week since the shooting assisting area synagogues with extra security.

The Victims of Terror Fund has received more than 6,200 donations from 46 states and places abroad such as Israel, Australia and the United Kingdom, Hertzman said. Contributions ranged from under $10 to $350,000 from the Penguins Foundation .

“We’ve been really overwhelmed with the outpouring of support, not just from Western Pennsylvania, but from all over,” Hertzman said.

Now begins the task of deciding where money should go.

“You have a fiduciary obligation to the victims and to the community, and you have to decide how to take a limited amount of money — it doesn’t matter if it’s millions of dollars, that’s still very limited considering the scope of the tragedy — and you have to decide what to do with the money, what it should be used for and how quickly it can be disbursed,” said Ken Feinberg, a Washington-based attorney and former special master of the U.S. government’s Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund.

“You want the process to be very simple, very efficient and very quick,” said Feinberg, who has assisted groups with administering donations after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., and the Las Vegas shooting that left 58 dead and hundreds injured.

The Jewish Federation followed Feinberg’s advice by creating an independent committee of volunteers to oversee administration of the fund. The seven-member committee’s charter says it must spend the money in six months, with the goal of doing so sooner, Hertzman said.

“The process has to be very, very transparent, no hidden agenda,” said Feinberg.

Feinberg said the committee should hold one or two public meetings to discuss tentative plans and collect input from victims, donors and the public.

Donors who contributed to the Victims of Terror Fund were broadly told that money would go toward “psychological services, support for families, general services, reconstruction, additional security throughout the community, medical bills, as well as counseling and other services that may prove necessary for victims and first responders during their recovery.” The fund also may be used to support first responders, Jewish community members and religious and day schools as they help young people cope with the tragedy.

David Shapira, former Giant Eagle CEO and former chairman of the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, is chairing the Victims of Terror Fund committee.

Other members include Susan Brownlee, former executive director of the Fine Foundation; Jared Cohon, president emeritus of Carnegie Mellon University; Steve Halpern, Jewish Federation board member and president of Woodland Management; Mark Nordenberg, chancellor emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh; Charles “Chuck” Perlow, Jewish Federation board member and chairman of McKnight Realty Partners; and Nancy Rackoff, Jewish Federation board member and estate planning attorney at Eckert Seamans.

Money has been raised from a variety of other sources.

U.S. Muslim groups raised more than $230,000 in the days following the attack to help with immediate needs of the victims and their families, including funeral costs and medical bills, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh dedicated collections at Sunday Mass toward the cause.

The Pittsburgh Foundation launched an online giving campaign with a match guarantee that spurred $720,000 in donations to eight groups — including about $32,000 for the Victims of Terror Fund.

Among recipients, $35,000 is going to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh to provide crisis assistance; $43,000 to Jewish Family and Community Services for emotional support and counseling; and $56,000 to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which assists refugees. About $51,000 was earmarked for Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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