By Josefin Dolsten
(JTA) — A refugee from Iran has raised over $600,000 for the Pittsburgh synagogue where a gunman killed 11 people on Saturday.
The day after, Shay Khatiri, 29, started an online fundraiser to collect donations for the Tree of Life Congregation. As of Monday afternoon he had raised over $640,000, 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.”