Shay first learned of the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania after his friend woke him up to tell him about the devastating news. Shay wanted to do something to benefit the victims and survivors, and aimed for an impact beyond the small amount he himself could donate. Recognizing the generosity of Americans, he quickly launched a GoFundMe campaign to support the synagogue with a goal to reach $50,000 in donations.
Within hours the campaign was on track to far exceed its target – surpassing $500,000 the first day with over 4,800 contributors – prompting Shay to update the goal to $1 million. The money raised will go directly to the congregation and he hopes that the funds will be used to help the families and the congregation recover.
While studying at Johns Hopkins SAIS, Shay has learned a great deal about inter-state conflicts through his Strategic Studies courses. Examining those conflicts, particularly World War II, has given him greater insight on how distrust in public and civil society institutions and their weakening directly relate to the rise of ideological extremism and global conflicts. It has been eye-opening for Shay to see that extremists often rise when the public loses faith in establishment politics – whether for good reasons or not. Shay believes that in order to minimize the spread of ideological violence and extremism, we need to make civil society institutions stronger and more efficient to restore the public trust in them.
Originally from Iran, Shay says he is an American at heart and he hopes to serve the U.S. after graduation. While he is still exploring careers, he would like to work on defense policy issues in either the government or private sector. He has always believed that a strong America – militarily, economically, politically, and institutionally – leads to a freer, more prosperous, and more peaceful world. Shay wants to leave America better than he found it and he believes that, as illustrated by a viral GoFundMe campaign, our contributions mean more together than each of us acting independently.