Money raised by Islamic group for synagogue shooting victims finally accounted for [updated and corrected]

· November 27, 2018  
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Update: On November 28, one day following the publication of this article, Celebrate Mercy posted two letters from the Tree of Life Synagogue. One letter acknowledged a gift of $155,000 received on November 21. The second letter (at the same link) acknowledged a gift of $84,534, also received on November 21. This accounts for 100 percent of the funds raised for the shooting victims through the crowdfunding site.

However, the November 21 date in the letter for the $84,534 gift contradicts the several statements Celebrate Mercy founder Tarek El-Messidi made to The Forward in an article dated November 25, in which he claimed that he still had possession of funds raised for the Pittsburgh shooting victims in excess of $155,000. “I don’t want it to drag out too long, but I don’t want to do, here’s $100 here, $200 there,” El-Messidi told The Forward. “I’d rather it be dispersed [sic] quickly so we can focus on a lot of other work we have to do.” The Forward reported that he was “brainstorming what exactly to do with the remaining $83,000.”

The November 21 date also contradicts a statement posted by Celebrate Mercy on the crowdfunding website on November 28, which claims that on that day, November 28 and not November 21, the non-profit sent the remaining $84,534 to the Islamic Center.

“This afternoon, we transferred the additional funds raised ($84,534) to the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh for them to deliver to the Tree of Life synagogue,” Celebrate Mercy wrote on its crowdfunding site on November 28 at 2 p.m. Eastern time.

There is also an additional agreement, dated November 28, after CR’s article, indicating that an additional $84,534 gift will be disbursed to Tree of Life.

On November 29, Facebook partner and fact-checking website Snopes claimed that Conservative Review, among other sites, misled its audience in this report.

“The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh gave two separate checks, for $155,000 and $84,534, to the Tree of Life synagogue on 21 November, six days before the articles were posted,” Snopes writes, claiming that CR “grossly misrepresented the facts”.

But the available paper trail, other than the date of gift in the letter, indicates that the $84,534 payment was made after the initial report in The Forward and after CR’s article. As stated above, there was zero public evidence that the $84,534 was sent to the Tree of Life synagogue prior to November 28 at 2 p.m. Eastern time. In fact, as shown above, at time of publication, there were several reasons to believe, based on El-Messidi’s own words to The Forward, that he was still in possession of the extra cash raised over $155,000.

The Snopes story did not report that El-Messidi appeared to claim multiple times that he was in possession of the funds, along with the November 28 statement from Celebrate Mercy’s fundraising site.

Corrections: Conservative Review initially reported that “hundreds of thousands of dollars” were not accounted for. That amount should have been only approximately $84,000. Our original article stated that the link to a document showing an agreement for the disbursement of the first $155,000 was dead. The link we tried at the time of publication was dead; however, here is the live link to that agreement. CR regrets the error. Though it appears that document concerning the $155,000 was available online at time of publication, no documents related to the $84,534 amount were available at the time of publication, despite the date of the gift listed in the acknowledgement letter from Tree of Life. The agreement concerning the $84,534 and the letter of acknowledgement are dated November 28.

The original headline, “Islamists in Pittsburgh pocket cash raised for Jewish community in wake of mass shooting,” has been amended to reflect that all funds in question have now been accounted for. The original article is below.

Islamic groups in Pittsburgh appear to have pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from fundraisers set up in the wake of the horrific October mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, which killed eleven Jews and injured several congregants and police officers who responded to the scene.

According to the left-wing The Forward, the Islamic group Celebrate Mercy has already funneled $155,000 — of over $238,634 that was raised supposedly for the victims of the shooting and the greater Jewish community of Pittsburgh — into the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh. Though the Forward article states that a document was posted signed by a representative of Celebrate Mercy, the director of the Islamic Center, and a “Tree of Life representative detailing exactly how the funds will be distributed to victims and their families,” the link to the document is dead.

As for the remaining $83,634, raised above the fundraiser’s $150,000 goal, it will go toward the vague goal of “projects that help foster Muslim-Jewish collaboration, dialogue, and solidarity,” Celebrate Mercy director Tarek El-Messidi told The Forward.

The Clarion Project, along with other groups, has documented how Islamists have used anti-Semitic crimes in the United States to raise cash for their priorities. 

Concerning the individuals behind the Pittsburgh fundraiser, there were already several red flags.

“There is a pattern of American Islamists pretending to be sympathetic to domestic U.S. Jews to build credibility that they are not anti-Semites. Several of these Islamists have been involved in crowdfunding campaigns to aid the Pittsburgh synagogue,” Ryan Mauro and Alex VanNess of the Clarion Project reported.

The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh is a mosque with deep ties to Muslim Brotherhood front groups in the United States. A former imam there was an overt anti-Semite who blamed Jews for the rise of ISIS, and he was ultra-cozy with anti-Semitic hate preacher Louis Farrakhan.

Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour in particular (who fundraised in the wake of the Pittsburgh attacks, through her Islamic advocacy group called MPower Change) has a long history of running Jewish “solidarity” scams, which resulted in raised cash simply disappearing.

Last year, Sarsour and El-Messidi raised over $100,000 for the purported goal of helping to repair Jewish cemeteries that were damaged by vandals. Months went by, and a cemetery that was promised funds didn’t receive a check from the group. After The Forward reported that the Golden Hill Cemetery in Lakewood, Colorado, hadn’t received the funds and El-Messidi wasn’t returning the cemetery executive director’s calls, at least some of the money was reportedly distributed. The cemetery executive director has declined to disclose how much of the promised money he received.

The legacy media has played a role in offering false legitimacy to the fundraisers set up by the perpetual scam artists. In the wake of the Pittsburgh shooting, countless media outlets celebrated their supposed noble fundraising activities without taking the time to investigate or caution readers about their past activities.

Editor’s note: The penultimate paragraph has been updated to add more detail about the cemetery repair funds and to clarify that the linked article referred to the Golden Hill Cemetery in Lakewood, Colorado.

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Author: Jordan Schachtel

Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review and editor of The Dossier for Blaze Media. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.