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Helping Christchurch Mosque Shooting Victims

Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh Wires Funds to New Zealand for Muslim Community Victims

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has finalized an agreement to transfer $666,430.55 to help the Muslim community of New Zealand. The money — raised in response to the March 15 Christchurch, New Zealand, terror attack — resulted from support from around the world, including more than $60,000 raised by Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha Congregation.

“We opened this emergency relief fund in solidarity with the Christchurch and local Muslim communities, after the Pittsburgh Muslim community was so helpful and supportive after the attack on our own religious institutions last year. None of us here anticipated this incredible outpouring of support from around the world.”

Brian Eglash, chief development officer of the Jewish Federation

Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha Congregation chose to consolidate its fund for Christchurch support with the Jewish Federation’s New Zealand Islamophobic Attack Emergency Relief Fund, given the complexity of transferring funds between countries. The Jewish Federation worked with an overseas partner, the New Zealand Jewish Council, Inc., to set up a fund at the Christchurch Foundation. The fund contains money raised by both the Jewish Federation and the congregation.

The grant of $666,430.55 will be directed to the welfare of the victims in Christchurch and their immediate families. This includes funding for counseling and other support services in New Zealand as well as education and vocational training, medical treatment, and financial planning and related services in New Zealand and Australia. The fund will also support Muslim and Jewish programming and other connections between the Muslim and Jewish communities that help to promote healing.

“The Jewish Federation often serves as the central fundraising entity for Jewish Pittsburgh, so we are grateful to Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha for trusting us to find the right partner in New Zealand,” said Jeffrey Finkelstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation. “The New Zealand Jewish Council is an all-volunteer organization, and we thank them for being such diligent and caring partners.”

The Jewish Federation opened the New Zealand Islamophobic Attack Emergency Relief Fund just hours after the March 15, 2019, attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The fund closed March 31, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh collected more money than anticipated.

“It feels really good to be able to connect the New Zealand Muslim community to the New Zealand Jewish community, to link our Pittsburgh Jewish community to both the New Zealand Jewish and Muslim communities, and at the same time to help the people who were affected by this horrible attack,” said Meryl Ainsman, chair of the board of the Jewish Federation.

A committee of Federation volunteers carefully vetted potential partners in New Zealand to meet high standards of fiduciary responsibility. The New Zealand Jewish Council met all these standards as did the Christchurch Foundation, which will manage and distribute the funds.

“As a community who experienced an act of hate against us, we sadly understand all too well the pain that the Muslim community in New Zealand must be feeling. If there is a silver lining to this hateful act, it is the amazing outpouring of people who care, showing the worldwide support for the Muslim community in New Zealand.”

Jeffrey Finkelstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation

All the funds are to be transferred to and ultimately managed by the Christchurch Foundation. All distributions will be made by its Muslim Advisory Panel, to be authorized by both the president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand or someone they nominate and by the president of the New Zealand Jewish Council Inc. or its nominee.

In keeping with legal and oversight requirements, the grant must “be expended for charitable, scientific, or educational purposes.” Any funds not expended for those purposes may be returned to the Federation.

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