Fund For Tree Of Life Victims May Soon Be Disbursed

Jan 31, 2019

Millions of dollars to support the Jewish community have been donated since October’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting.

Giving opportunities included GoFundMe online fundraisers, the largest of which was launched by an Iranian asylum-seeker and collected more than $1 million. People also gave directly to the three congregations impacted by the shooting which killed 11 people. Auxiliary Jewish organizations including the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh and Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh saw an uptick in donations.

Now, the largest pool of money is expected to begin the process disbursement to victims as early as February.

To date, $5.6 million has made its way into the Tree of Life Victims of Terror Fund. Donations range from children giving $1, to six-figure contributions from foundations. The majority of giving was done online, and included more than 8,000 individual gifts.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh created the fund just hours after the shooting to capture the immediate flood of giving. They continue to receive donations. The Federation’s Adam Hertzman said 100 percent of donations will go to recipients, and no administrative costs are deducted.

On the advice of Kenneth Feinberg, an independent committee was appointed to distribute the large fund. Feinberg’s firm has managed high-profile funds including the 9/11 victims compensation fund and is currently administering the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh’s victim compensation fund.

The seven-member Victims of Terror committee was approved by the Federation’s board in November, and includes civic leaders from the Jewish and non-Jewish community. They are tasked with determining who will receive funds, and the dollar amounts, in accordance with the fund’s stated mission of providing psychological services and support for victims, their families, and first responders.

"As the outpouring of support continues in the aftermath of the tragedy on Oct. 27, the special independent committee, is deliberating on guidelines and process for the disposition of funds received through the Jewish Federation,” read an issued statement. “The committee is working toward completing its initial work by late February and plans to issue a statement at that time.”

A separate fund overseen by the Jewish Federation has collected $2.2 million of donations earmarked for security and ongoing community resiliency.