Plan outlined for donations in Pittsburgh synagogue attack

Barricades surround the gardens outside the Tree of Life Synagogue Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood where Robert Bowers is accused of killing 11 and wounding multiple others during an attack on that Pittsburgh synagogue in October of 2018. (Keith Srakocic/AP Photo)

About $5.5 million that poured in from donors after the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue attack that killed 11 worshippers is being distributed according to a plan outlined Monday by Jewish groups.

The largest share, just over $3 million, will go to the families of those killed and to two people who were seriously injured. Donations are also being distributed to people who were in the Tree of Life building during the attack, to first responders and to the congregations.

The payouts are based on recommendations by an independent, volunteer committee created by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. The group’s report issued in February said donors probably expected their gifts to help Tree of Life, which owns the building, as well as the two tenant congregations, Dor Hadash and New Light.

Nearly $1.3 million will help Tree of Life rebuild the severely damaged synagogue building. Other payments will fund memorials related to the massacre, and the committee recommended the three congregations work together with victims and families on that effort.

New Light co-president Barbara Caplan said in a release that a guiding principle is to foster healing and harmony in the wider Jewish community.

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The plan involves money received before April 2019, when Tree of Life established donation procedures that make it clear how donors want their money used. Tree of Life stopped accepting donations for the victims at the end of December.

A western Pennsylvania truck driver, Robert Bowers, awaits trial for the attack. His lawyers are fighting efforts by federal prosecutors to seek a death sentence against Bowers. Bowers’ attorney Judy Clarke has said in court filings that she has tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a life sentence for him.

No trial date has been set.

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