UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Using their small family-owned and operated business, Penn State alumni Larry and Anne Barasch launched a fundraiser to sell the now-famous “Stronger Than Hate” T-shirts following the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last October.
Larry, a Blue Band alumnus who holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture and a master’s degree in architectural engineering from Penn State, and his wife, Anne, an alumna of the College of the Liberal Arts, are the owners of 123shirt.com, a custom clothing company in Pittsburgh.
“We began the fundraiser the evening of the shooting,” said Larry. “We knew we wanted to provide a way for people to support the community, and our business gave us that opportunity.”
On Oct. 27, 2018, the Squirrel Hill neighborhood lost 11 community members after an anti-Semitic gunman entered the Tree of Life synagogue and opened fire during that morning’s Shabbat services. That night, the small business, run by Larry, Anne and their son David, also a Penn State alumnus, began selling the shirts with the now-iconic emblem. Local Pittsburgh artist Tim Hindes created the image — the traditional Steelers logo with the yellow diamond replaced by a Star of David.
The Barasch family decided all proceeds after costs from the shirts would be donated to the funds established by the three congregations impacted by the shooting, which all worshipped at Tree of Life: Tree of Life, Dor Hadash and New Light.
Just two months after sales began, the Barasch family, on behalf of the thousands of people worldwide who purchased shirts, donated their first payment of $18,000 — a multiple of the number 18, or chai, which in the Jewish faith represents giving “the gift of life.” This donation, made on Dec. 28, 2018, was given in honor of Larry’s uncle, 80-year-old Judah Samet, whose life was likely saved by being late to synagogue that day.
“Our biggest concern was for my uncle,” said Larry. “We had no idea what was going on, but we knew he was at the synagogue that day.”
Judah Samet arrived at the Tree of Life synagogue four minutes after the shooting began to find the gunman exchanging fire with the first police officers on the scene. Samet is now a survivor of both the Holocaust and of the largest attack on Jews in American history.
123shirt.com will continue the “Stronger Than Hate” fundraiser indefinitely. The Barasch family has continued its community support efforts by offering temporary employment to federal furloughed employees in the Pittsburgh area affected by the government shutdown.