In the aftermath of the heinous shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue this past week, a fundraising effort led by two Muslim-American groups has raised $150,000 from about 3,600 different donors, within the span of 48 hours. The fundraiser, hosted by Celebrate Mercy and MPower Change on the crowdfunding website LaunchGood, commenced with an initial goal of $25,000, a sum which was surpassed in under 6 hours.
In an interview with CBS News, Linda Sarsour, a co-founder of MPower Change, explained that the intention behind this initiative was to proffer a gesture of support, and solidarity. “We wanted to give more than just ‘thoughts and prayers,'” elaborated Sarsour.
The funds have since been transferred via PayPal to the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh (ICP). An executive director of the ICP, Wasi Mohamed, said that the center was in touch with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Tree of Life, and local funeral homes to figure out how to distribute the funds amongst the families of the victims.
The founder of LaunchGood, Tarek El-Messidi explained that their priority, first and foremost, was to use the funds to cover the funeral expenses for each of the victims, following which, the remaining funds would be disbursed to cover medical expenses as necessary.
“Pittsburgh is such a tight knit community and the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh are true friends of the Jewish community here,” Josh Sayles, director of the Jewish Federation’s community relations council, said in an interview. “They have stepped up for us in countless ways. There’s few things keeping us going right now, but this is at the top of the list.”
El-Messidi echoed this sentiment, stating that “no amount of money will bring back their loved ones, but we do hope to lessen their burden in some way”.
LaunchGood, which recently celebrated 5 years since its inception, is a Muslim-driven crowdsourcing platform for grassroots fundraising efforts. In an effort to reflect the Islamic belief that where monetary aid is concerned, “the right hand gives, and the left hand doesn’t know”, LaunchGood opts not to publish the names of donors, unlike similar sites such as GoFundMe.
“In Islam, the idea of charity is something to strengthen your relationship with God,” Sarsour said. “It’s supposed to be something that’s secret. You’re not supposed to flaunt it.”
This drive is “an interfaith effort” added El-Messidi. And that sentiment is key here. Given the current cultural and political climate, this interfaith effort highlights the importance of unity under harrowing circumstances. In a time where divisive rhetoric seems to saturate every headline, it is pertinent that we, the observers of various faiths, come together as brothers and sisters. It is essential that we reject any narrative that seeks to divide us, and instead, insist upon unison, and commonality. For it is unity, and fraternity which will ultimately serve as an antidote to hate, and discrimination.