Jews in Pittsburgh and Muslim worshipers in Christchurch, New Zealand, have forged a grim bond that transcends oceans and faiths: Mass killers have targeted their houses of prayer.
The Jewish community in Pittsburgh was roiled when 11 people were killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in October. People of all religions rallied around them for support.
Now, members of Tree of Life have raised thousands of dollars for a Muslim community that lost 50 people, killed by a gunman Friday at Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch. Dozens more were injured.
“We feel compelled to come to the aid of those communities, just as our Jewish community was so compassionately supported only a few short months ago by people around the world of many faiths,” says a GoFundMe page set up by the congregation. “We recall with love the immediate, overwhelming support Tree of Life received from our Muslim brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh.”
Donors provided thousands of dollars a day after the page was launched Sunday.
The effort mirrors an outpouring of support from the Muslim community in Pittsburgh after the massacre there. Nearly a quarter-million dollars was raised by Muslim groups to help injured worshipers and grieving families.
“To the families going through the most difficult moments in your lives: the Jewish community of Pittsburgh is with you,” the Tree of Life funding page says. “Our hearts are with you. We hold you in our prayers.”
“Tree of Life members, and our friends who continue to comfort and bolster us as we recover, must now come together to support the Muslims of Christchurch,” the page says.
There have been other similar efforts launched in Pittsburgh. The Jewish Federation set up a relief fund within days of the attack in New Zealand, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
And two days after the Christchurch attack, members of the Tree of Life congregation attended Sunday classes at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh in solidarity, said Sam Schachner, president of the congregation. “It was a wonderful way to continue a connection and to build on, as our rabbi says, love instead of the h-word,” he told the Post-Gazette.
In January 2017, the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec City was attacked by a gunman who killed six people. Members of that group traveled to Pittsburgh shortly after the Tree of Life attack to offer their support and sympathy.
“They were incredibly helpful to us, and it was an incredibly moving experience,” Schachner told the Post-Gazette.