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.
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.”