Pittsburgh Attack Bringing Charities Together

October 29, 2018       Mark Hrywna      

Organizations of every ilk are coming out in support of Jewish communities and charities after a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday.

Eleven people were killed and six people were injured during services at the Tree of Life synagogue, located in the Squirrel Hill section of the city.

The suspect, Robert Gregory Bowers, 46, was scheduled to appear in court today to face numerous counts, ranging from criminal homicide and aggravated assault to ethnic intimidation. Bowers apparently had a history of posting on social networks, attacking the resettlement nonprofit HIAS in particular.

“There are no words to express how devastated we are by the events in Pittsburgh this morning. This loss is our loss, and our thoughts are with Tree of Life Congregation, our local partner Jewish Family and Community Services (JCFS) of Pittsburgh, the city of Pittsburgh and all those affected by this senseless act of violence. As we try to process this horrifying tragedy, we pray that the American Jewish community and the country can find healing,” HIAS officials said via a statement.

HIAS was founded in 1881 to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe and originally was called the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Starting in the 2000s, HIAS expanded its work to include assistance to non-Jewish refugees, including those from conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Iran, and Tunisia, among others.

The organization reported $45.2 million in total revenue on its federal Form 990 with a net assets or fund balance of $45.9 million for Fiscal 2016, the last data publicly available. In the financial statement on its website, it was reported that organization had total assets of $67.2 million at the end of fiscal year 2016.

HIAS is one of nine national refugee resettlement agencies partnering with the United States government to resettle refugees through the U.S. refugee admissions program. The organization partners with Jewish Family Services and other social service organizations to resettle refugees in almost 20 cities across the country. During 2017, HIAS resettled approximately 3,300 refugees and Special Immigrant Visa holders (SIVs).

HIAS is headquartered in Silver Spring, Md., with an office in New York City, with a total staff of 98. HIAS New York provides direct services to refugees, asylum seekers, SIVs and other humanitarian migrants, “with the goals of successful integration into the community and facilitating self-sufficiency.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called it the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

“Our hearts break for the families of those killed and injured at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and for the entire Jewish community of Pittsburgh,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said via a statement shortly after the attack.

“It is simply unconscionable for Jews to be targeted during worship on a Sabbath morning, and unthinkable that it would happen in the United States of America in this day and age. Unfortunately, this violence occurs at a time when ADL has reported a historic increase in both anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Semitic online harassment,” he said.

The ADL issued results of a study on Friday that indicated that anti-Semitic attacks on social media against the Jewish American community, especially journalists, have been on the rise ahead of next week’s midterm elections. Researchers at the Institute for the Future’s Digital Intelligence Lab analyzed more than 7.5 million tweets and 8 million hashtags between Aug. 31 and Sept. 17, in addition to interviewing Jews in politics and journalism to assess the extent of anti-Semitic harassment and disinformation about Jewish Americans on social media.

“Both anonymity and automation have been used in online propaganda offensives against the Jewish community during the 2018 midterms,” the report said. Nearly 30 percent of accounts that repeatedly tweeted terms meant to denigrate Jews were judged to likely to be bots, according to the study.

A certified GoFundMe Certified Charity campaign established over the weekend already had surpassed $600,000 from more than 10,500 people by this morning.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has started the “Our Victims of Terror” fund. Donations fund support of “psychological services, support for families, general services, reconstruction, additional security throughout the community, medical bills for all those involved, as well as counseling and other services that may prove necessary in the future.”

Organizations of all kinds have issued statements since the shooting expressing their solidarity for HIAS and Jewish communities.

“Hate-fueled violence has once again been let loose on an American community — our community — and we are all devastated at the loss of life and physical injuries,” Pittsburgh Foundation Board Chair Dr. Edie Shapira and President Maxwell King said in a statement. “We also recognize the emotional wounds inflicted, especially in Jewish communities across the region. In stances of similar tragedies, community foundations have been able to provide helpful assistance in partnership with government, religious groups and civic organizations to help the community begin the process of recovery – physical and spiritual.”

  • Anti-Defamation League
  • GoFundMe
  • HIAS
  • Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh
  • Pittsburgh
  • Pittsburgh Foundation
  • Squirrel Hill
  • Tree of Life synagogue