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

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.

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