Iranian refugee raises over $700,000 for Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue
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Iranian refugee raises over $700,000 for Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue

Shay Khatiri says he decided to launch online fundraiser after seeing how shooting rampage affected a Jewish friend

A Pittsburgh police officer walks past the Tree of Life synagogue and a memorial of flowers and stars in Pittsburgh, on October 28, 2018. (AP/Gene J. Puskar)
A Pittsburgh police officer walks past the Tree of Life synagogue and a memorial of flowers and stars in Pittsburgh, on October 28, 2018. (AP/Gene J. Puskar)

JTA — A refugee from Iran has raised over $700,000 for the US synagogue in Pittsburgh where a gunman killed 11 people on Saturday.

The day after the anti-Semitic rampage, Shay Khatiri, 29, started an online fundraiser to collect donations for the Tree of Life Congregation. As of Monday evening he had raised over $700,000, far exceeding his expectations.

“I thought to myself, ‘Worst comes to worst, it will raise like $500.’ Which is better than nothing but it’s a little above that now,” he told the Washington TV station WJLA.

Khatiri is a political refugee from Iran and currently a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Baltimore, according to WJLA. He identifies as a Deist.

Shay Khatiri with John McCain (via Facebook)

He was inspired to raise money when seeing a Jewish friend’s reaction to the shooting.

“She told me what happened and she was just broken,” he told CNN. “Seeing how upset she was, I wanted to donate to the congregation.”

Khatiri said that seeing the donations come in has inspired him.

“Everyone talks about how divided we are,” he told CNN. “But in such a tragic moment, Americans are always powerful and indivisible in trauma.”

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