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Here’s how $6.3M raised for Tree of Life shooting victims will be disbursed |

Here’s how $6.3M raised for Tree of Life shooting victims will be disbursed

Natasha Lindstrom
Paul Guggenheimer | Tribune-Review
David Shapira, chair of the Victims of Terror Fund Committee, speaks Tuesday, March 5, 2019, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
People lay flowers at memorials outside of the Tree of Life Congregation on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, where 11 people were shot and killed on Saturday.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
People leave flowers and take a moment to remember the 11 individuals who were killed at the mass shooting at Tree of Life congregation on Monday, Oct. 28, 2018.
AP file
In this Oct. 28, 2018, file photo, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, right, of Tree of Life/Or L’Simcha Congregation hugs Rabbi Cheryl Klein, left, of Dor Hadash Congregation and Rabbi Jonathan Perlman during a community gathering held in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. As the Jewish community grieved, Myers took a leading role during public memorials and presided over seven funerals in the space of less than a week.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh announced Tuesday how the more than $6.3 million donated to support the victims, survivors, first responders and others affected by the Tree of Life synagogue shooting will be divided.

The payments will begin immediately, David Shapira, chairman of Giant Eagle Corporation, said at morning news conference. Shapira served as Chair of the Independent Committee established by the federation to determine the distribution of donated funds.

Most of the money donated to the Victims of Terror Fund — $4.85 million — will be disbursed as “compassion payments” to people directly affected by the Oct. 27 mass shooting in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

Shapira said each family will make its own decision about how the money is divided.

A portion of the money will go toward memorials and education connected to the massacre.

Recipients include the families of the 11 people killed and two injured civilians as well as the nine people who were trapped inside the synagogue during the shooting. The smallest payments will go to a group of people outside the building when the shooter attacked.

The injured police officers and their families will share $500,000.

The largest single payment, $450,000, will go to the Tree of Life congregation, which owns the synagogue building on Wilkins Avenue that was attacked. The funding aims to help with Tree of Life’s “costly, complicated and extended process” of repairing the damaged building.

“The obvious victims are the people who were killed or wounded,” Shapira said. “But it’s clear that they were not the only victims. There were people in the synagogue who were not killed but were watching their friends being killed. There were people who were on the premises but not yet in the building. Another thing that’s pretty clear to me is that the building is a victim.”

Related: Tree of Life synagogue future remains undetermined

Dor Hadash and New Light — the other two congregations that were holding worship services during the Saturday morning shooting — will get $100,000 apiece.

“It’s a horrific, horrible tragedy. It will never be forgotten,” said Stephen Cohen, Co-President of the New Light Congregation. “I think this committee ended up in the right place.”

Cohen said the problem that needs to be confronted now is figuring out how the congregations can go back into the Tree of Life building.

“We know that right now we are homeless,” said Cohen. “We are looking to the future, to be able to go back, to celebrate, to become a congregation again in our home at Tree of Life.”

The fund’s remaining $300,000 will go toward memorial and education efforts to help combat anti-Semitism and prevent acts of hate.

Officials did not provide specific breakdowns of money allocated to each recipient.

More than 8,500 people, companies and organizations from 48 states and at least eight other countries — including Israel, Australia and the United Kingdom — gave to the Victims of Terror Fund.

Contributions ranged from under $10 from individuals to $350,000 from the Penguins Foundation, and included proceeds from fundraisers such as benefit concerts, 5K runs and “even a youth hockey team raising money for each goal they scored,” Meryl Ainsman, chair of the Jewish Federation’s board of directors, said in a statement.

The committee also felt it was important to acknowledge what first responders did.

“In the history of the Jewish people, Jews have often been the target of violent anti-Semitism. This is a situation where first responders ran towards danger to save Jews,” Ainsman said. “I don’t want to say it’s the first time in history, but it’s a very poignant moment in history when public servants came to help Jews in their time of need. So, we felt it was important to say, ‘Thank you for being there for us when we needed you.’”

Formed in November, the seven-member funding committee met nine times before finalizing its spending plan last month.

“We took great care to talk about what we understood donors were thinking when they gave,” said Shapira.

Separately, the federation by November had used its own funding to contribute $2,000 each to the families of the victims and spent more than $100,000 in assisting local synagogues with extra security.

Staff writer Paul Guggenheimer contributed to this report. Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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

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