By Rachel Holliday Smith/DNA.info
The day after 30-year-old Nadiv Kehaty died, his friends gathered at the Crown Heights synagogue he helped found to decide how to help his wife and four young children.
“We said, ‘What can we do?’” said his rabbi, Chaim Fogelman. “Somehow, the number [came up]. ‘Let’s get $1 million.’ It sounded impossible.”
But when the Kehaty Family Fund went live on two separate websites, donations poured in. Within 24 hours, nearly 5,000 donors had contributed nearly $900,000 to the family of Kehaty, who Fogelman described as “vibrant,” “bright” and “a devoted father.”
“His life was very short, but his life was very full,” he said.
Kehaty died suddenly of an apparent heart attack early Monday morning, friends said, rattling a community he helped shape.
A native of New Orleans, Kehaty settled in Crown Heights where he helped found a local synagogue, Itchke’s Shtiebel, Fogelman said, and worked at a neighborhood-based real estate firm, Lang Realty.
“I’ve never seen the whole community so shattered,” he said. “From grown men just openly sitting and crying to the children — my own children.”
That grief drove the effort to help Kehaty’s wife and four children — all under the age of seven — said Moshe Hecht, longtime friend of Kehaty and co-founder of Charidy.com, a Crown Heights-based fundraising site that gathered the bulk of the money for the family.
“The whole community has gotten together for this, and then some,” he said. “There’s been literally an international effort. People have been donating from Australia, South Africa, from all over the world.”
The site used donation matchers to multiply each dollar raised, Hecht said. Groups including Lang Realty, where Kehaty worked for eight years, came forward to match donations to the family.
“We felt right away that it was our responsibility to make sure that the family was financially taken care of,” said Sam Lang, co-owner of the company, who described Kehaty as “an amazing person.”
“We have thousands of pictures of him. He’s just always smiling,” he said.
Hecht said the fundraising effort broke “every single one” of the Charidy’s records in the more than 250 campaigns the site has organized since its founding more than a year ago.
“The time, the size, the amount of donors … the average donation. It’s just enormous,” he said.
The fund, made up of donations from the Charidy site and a separate Go Fund Me campaign, will be managed by an oversight committee lead by Fogelman, he said, which plans to hire a financial advisor to ensure its future.
“He was a great friend to a lot of people and they feel a responsibility to step in and help the children, and, obviously, the wife, as well,” Fogelman said. “We’re going to try to set this up right.”
To donate to the Kehaty Family Fund, visit the Go Fund Me campaign or contact Rabbi Chaim Fogelman through Charidy.com.