You’ve heard one person can make a difference. Jason Feldman is one such person.
When the 27-year-old from Sandy Springs, a third-generation Atlantan with strong ties to the Jewish community, heard about the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue Oct. 27, he “broke down for a good 20 minutes.” And then, within two hours after the tragedy, he sprung into action.
The interior designer set up a Facebook fundraising platform, “Help Cover Costs for Pittsburgh Synagogue Victims,” with the goal of raising $3,000 to help the families of those who lost loved ones in the attack. Instead, he raised $105,160 in four days.
Feldman gave the money to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh to help pay for bereavement, funeral, medical, counseling, and security expenses for the victims’ families and the affected community.
“I had always seen people do Facebook fundraising. I felt the need to do something, to take the next step.”
Feldman said he was “floored” by the amount of donations he received. “It’s crazy how social media methods of fundraising really work. It blows my mind how fast [information] spreads. It far exceeded anything I ever thought it could accomplish.”
Of the 8,700 people invited to contribute through 1,600 shared posts, more than one-third donated, or 2,900 people, according to Feldman’s Facebook site. The largest donation was for $250.
He said that when the campaign began, he received texts every five minutes that people were donating. It soon increased to every two minutes. “I think I hit $3,000 in the first two hours.” That Saturday night, he was eating dinner with high school friends from The Weber School. “By the time dinner had finished, it was up to $30,000.”
Perhaps it was serendipity that led him to a former Weber School teacher, who was very inspirational during his high school years about giving and connecting to the community. Ironically, she happened to work at the Pittsburgh Federation and was able to connect Feldman with officials setting up the “Our Victims of Terror Fund,” to which he gave the donations he collected.
Feldman’s contribution was almost 20 percent of what the Federation had raised so far through its online fund, said Adam Hertzman, director of marketing. “It was really extraordinary,” he said of Feldman’s contribution, which is very appreciated. “The needs are enormous.”
Although people still ask about donating, Feldman cut off his site on Oct. 30 and refers inquiries to the Federation’s fundraising effort. “I could have kept going longer, but I wanted to get the funds to the families as quickly as possible. … $100,000 is a lot of money and can do a lot of good.”
Still, with so much fraud in the world, a skeptic might ask why so many would donate to a young Atlantan posting a fundraising effort on Facebook. Possibly because of his family’s strong commitment to the Atlanta Jewish community.
Feldman, who has 3,000 Facebook friends, grew up in Atlanta and attended Greenfield Hebrew Academy – now Atlanta Jewish Academy – and The Weber School. He was on the student council in middle and high school.
At Boston University, he studied public relations and sang with Hillel’s a capella troupe. Perhaps an early predictor of his fundraising ability, he raised $33,000 in six days for cancer research as part of his fraternity’s Derby Days. After college, Feldman led a Birthright Israel trip for students from around the country.
Feldman co-chaired a meet and greet for candidate Jen Jordan for Georgia Senate District 6, and more recently, John Barrow, running for Secretary of State.
He also serves on the Jewish Educational Loan Fund visibility committee and the Alliance Theatre advisory board, organizations his parents support. Feldman’s parents, grandparents and aunts are known for their involvement in Atlanta’s Jewish organizations.
He believes people, like himself, were looking for a way to help when they read about his Facebook effort. “A lot of people feel helpless and don’t know how to help. People need an outlet. They need somewhere to go, to jump into action.”
About the shooting, Feldman said he always feared an act of anti-Semitism like the synagogue massacre would happen. “A lot of people were waiting for this to happen and it was matter of when. Your worst fears are realized in that moment and I know a lot of others felt that way too. It’s a sobering moment.”
While supporters have congratulated him for his fundraising success, he humbly responds, “A very small part of this was me. A very big part of it was people like me who decided to make a difference, who care about the future.
“People are good. People are looking for ways to give back, to be a part of the larger community,” he said. “It’s also the reason I love being Jewish. This is what the community is capable of, and so much more.”
This is the letter Feldman sent with the money he raised, as posted on his Facebook page:
To the Families & Friends of Loved Ones Lost,
You do not know us, but we have been by your side since this past Saturday when your family and friends were tragically taken from you for senseless reasons. We have been there grieving with you as you try to come to terms with your new normal and what it means to live on without your grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, brother, daughter, son and friend.
Money cannot bring them back, it is no substitute for life. But we hope this small contribution allows you the chance to have a meal with others and share blessed memories of those now gone; concentrate on yourselves and heal from your wounds, both physically and emotionally; not worry about how the bills will get paid this month; be able to feel safe once again in your homes, place of worship and community.
You do not know us, but we are thousands of Jews, non-Jews, Muslims, Christians and people of all religious backgrounds who have been by your side and will continue to do so because this is what communities do for each other. You do not know us, but we are here and always will be.