Over 2,000 people donated to my Facebook fundraiser following the Tree of Life shooting

I don’t know the race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, or personal history of the vast majority of my fundraiser’s donors. In this digital age, for me they are generous little circular profile pictures alerting me of a new donation every thirty seconds. For two days I watched their faces flash and flash, over and over, continually curating new donations on the screen of my cell phone in what was a beautiful slideshow of names, both familiar and foreign, giving what they could to help out complete strangers.

By Monica Edelman

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Ever since my move to Israel in 2013, it seems I’ve always been in close proximity to anti-Semitic tragedies. Living firsthand through the Israeli-Arab conflict hardened me in the face of unpredictable missile fire, regular bomb threats, and frequent stabbings and car-rammings. I became lamentably accustomed to hearing about innocent Jews being maimed and murdered simply for being Israeli and living in the land of their birth.

When I talk about my move from Israel to France in 2014, I darkly joke that the horrors of Jew-hatred followed me from the land of milk and honey to the land of cheese and wine. I settled down in a charming suburb of Paris where I found a great synagogue community. I quickly learned from new synagogue friends that my apartment overlooked the very forest where French-Moroccan-Jewish teen Ilan Halimi’s naked, tortured and burned body was found eight years earlier. Not long after learning of this haunting act of anti-Semitism in my new backyard, ISIS radicals shot up the Parisian offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine and subsequently murdered four Jews who were shopping at a suburban kosher supermarket just a 30-minute drive from where I lived. Later that year, the deadliest mass shooting in post-war Europe occured at the Jewish/Israeli affiliated Bataclan concert hall in Paris while I was on the train passing that forest, thinking about Ilan Halimi…

I spent three years living in Jewish communities outside the US and was personally affected by heinous acts of anti-Semitism in Israel and France. My reaction in Israel was to teach my young Israeli students loving-kindness in the face of hate, yet I didn’t feel like I was doing enough to help. In France, I demonstrated in the streets, I spoke out on talk shows, and I translated an ominous YouTube video showing the anti-Semitic motivations for the Bataclan shooting which fell on deaf media ears despite my best efforts to disseminate the video widely. Again, I felt like I could do more.

In the face of tragedy, whatever you do will never feel like enough… but at least it’s something. It’s not enough to be sad - you must do something. So on Shabbat, October 27, 2018, I lazily rolled over in the late morning to check my phone first thing and I was horrified to learn of the horrific tragedy that had befallen Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. This time, I didn’t wait for the opportunity to react; I did something before even getting out of bed. I started a simple Facebook fundraiser, and 48 hours later, I had raised $80,000 with the help of over 2,300 donors from all over the world.

Raising a significant amount of financial support for a Jewish community where 11 lives were brutally taken was one of the most formative experiences of my budding nonprofit career. As program coordinator for JWI’s Los Angeles Young Leadership Network, I felt empowered and supported by my expansive network of Jewish friends in LA. I initially set up the fundraiser to try to collect $1,000 from my friends and family, and I was uncertain whether I’d meet my goal. I was so humbled that among the very first donors were members of the YWLN Network in LA. From there, the fundraiser snowballed. Reporters began reaching out to me, articles about my fundraiser were published, thousands of people shared it, and countless people thanked me for taking the initiative to start a wide-reaching Facebook fundraiser.

I don’t know the race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, or personal history of the vast majority of my fundraiser’s donors. In this digital age, for me they are generous little circular profile pictures alerting me of a new donation every thirty seconds. For two days I watched their faces flash and flash, over and over, continually curating new donations on the screen of my cell phone in what was a beautiful slideshow of names, both familiar and foreign, giving what they could to help out complete strangers.

It’s been a week or so now since that horrific day, and Jewish communities all over the country, and the world, are still grieving the worst attack on Jews in modern American history. I too am still processing what it all means. It didn’t take long, however, to understand that we are not as divergent and conflicted as we think. Despite the public voice saying that these times are more polarizing than ever, sharing in sorrow certainly has an uncanny way of bringing all kinds of people together. If we can just hold onto this brief moment of unity in the face of evil, just long enough to look around and see who is among us and our values, then just maybe we can bring some illuminating hope out of this dark despair.

 
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Monica Edelman earned her B.A. in international business from San Diego State University in 2012. Since graduating, she has lived and worked in Argentina, Israel, and France. Monica moved to L.A. in 2016 and has become involved in the city's Jewish and Israeli communities, including membership or board presence in IAC Lead, IAC Action Ambassadors and JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa). She is a catalyst for bringing people together and enjoys learning about others' stories and dreams. Monica is currently earning her M.S. in organizational leadership and innovation at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. 

 
 

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