Tree of Life collection at least $222,000

A diocesan collection to raise money for the three Jewish congregations that worship at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood has so far raised at least $222,000, according to a preliminary count of funds that are still coming into the diocese.

The collection was taken in all parishes after a man shouting anti-Semitic epithets opened fire during Sabbath services Oct. 27, killing 11 people and injuring seven others. This initial gift represents returns from about 110 of the 188 parishes. Receipts from the other parishes continue to come back to the diocese.

The three congregations are free to use the donations as they see fit, whether to help the families of those who died, to assist the wounded or to make repairs and renovations to the badly damaged building.

“The hearts of Catholics continue to go out to our sisters and brothers in the Jewish community,” Bishop David Zubik said. “While money cannot heal heartbreak, we hope that this tangible sign of our love and concern for our neighbors will bring them some comfort in this time of suffering.”

The diocese has had a relationship with Tree of Life Synagogue for many years. One of those killed, Richard Gottfried, was a volunteer dentist at the Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center and frequently assisted his Catholic wife, Peg, with activities at her parish, St. Athanasius in West View.