Bulgarian Jews raising money for Muslim victims of train explosion


(JTA) — Bulgarian Jews donated some $6,000 to victims of an explosion inside a heavily populated Muslim village, in one of the most successful fundraisers in the history of their impoverished community.

The fundraiser organized by the Shalom Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria was for victims of the Dec. 10 accident in Hitrino, in northeastern Bulgaria. Seven people were killed and more than 20 injured in a fire that raged through the village as a result of the explosion of a derailed tanker train.

“The donations are still coming in, and we have extended the fundraiser by one more week,” Alexander Oscar, the president of Shalom, told JTA Monday. He noted that $6,000 “is a lot for Bulgaria,” where the average monthly salary is $500. “I think the response has been amazing,” said Oscar.

“We have pensioners, who donate 10 percent to 15 percent of their monthly stipend,” he said. “We have children giving up their Hanukkah pocket money and it’s just an uplifting experience to see this spirit of giving and mutual assistance, crossing faiths and ethnicities, communities.”

Bulgaria is home to approximately 2,000 Jews, according to the World Jewish Congress.

The donations raised in Shalom’s fundraiser came from private individuals, not organizations, Oscar added, “which is remarkable considering that the culture of philanthropy is not well-developed here.”

The Bulgarian Red Cross has collected close to $1 million in its campaign for Hitrino, the Sofia Globe reported.

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