“When we first saw the footage and the story on TV from the synagogue, it was sickening to see an atrocity happen in a place like a synagogue or a church or a mosque, you know, places that are sacred places of worship,” Subhan Vahora, program manager of Cincinnati-based CelebrateMercy, told The Daily Beast on Monday.
“With the rise of Islamophobia and anti-muslim rhetoric, this could very well have been a mosque. We knew we had to help in any way we can and began reaching out to the local community,” he added.
As of Monday afternoon, the campaign launched on a Muslim crowdsourcing site, LaunchGood, raised more than $127,056 by almost 3,000 donors.
The money has already been disbursed to the the victim’s families by their local partners, Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and the Tree of Life Synagogue, Vahora confirmed.
The aim, he said, is to “lift that financial burden off of these families” by covering funeral and medical expenses.
“Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate and violence in America,” the page read. “We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.”
The crowdfunding campaign is just one example the immediate interfaith solidarity in the community as report emerged after alleged shooter, Robert Bowers, 46, entered Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue just after 10 a.m on Saturday morning, reportedly shouting “all Jews must die” before opening fire and killing 11 people.
In response to Vahora’s campaign, another online drive was launched by an Iranian student attending Arizona State University and has raised almost $650,000 from more than 11,000 donations.
“An anti-Semite attacked and killed several attendees to a baby’s bris at a Pittsburgh synagogue,” the GoFundMe page read. “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.”
Shortly before the 20-minute shooting spree, Bowers, a neo-Nazi who often wrote on a known far-right social media website about killing Jews, posted an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory with the words: “Screw your optics. I’m going in.”
Despite the targeted intentions of the attack—deemed a hate crime by Attorney General Jeff Sessions—for the faith leaders in Pittsburgh, this was personal.
“Those who were stolen from us by this hateful person were like family,” said Wasi Mohamed, the Executive Director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, its doors less than 20 minutes away from the Tree of Life Synagogue. “We feel obligated to follow this Prophetic tradition on standing up for the Jewish community.”
Mohamed, who is also the Executive Director of Emgage Pennsylvania, a non-profit Muslim advocacy organization, added that local Muslims are supporting the Jewish community in non-monetary ways, offering grocery-store trips, protection during services, and more.
Believed to be the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the U.S., according to the the Anti-Defamation League, Saturday’s tragedy spurred social-media unity via the hashtag #Muslims4Pittsburgh, along with several local Muslim-led vigils.
“The most discriminated and hated religion in the world comes through (of course),” one twitter user wrote about the Muslim community, which has been the target of the President Trump’s tweets in the past.
The anti-Semitic attack comes after a week of political violence with 14 pipe bombs mailed by a Trump supporter to prominent critics of the president. On Monday, another pipe bomb was intercepted en route to CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta, as reports emerged that the alleged bomb maker, Caesar Savoc Jr., had a plan to send explosives to “hundreds of people.”
Meanwhile, Trump, who called Saturday’s attack “far more devastating than anybody originally thought,” has adamantly refused to admit his past rhetoric may have fueled any such political violence, instead pinning the blame on his favorite opponent: the media.
“There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly,” he tweeted. “That will do much to put out the flame of Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony. Fake News Must End!”