These are the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
PITTSBURGH — Eleven lives abruptly ended on Saturday when a gunman stormed the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s historic Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
On Sunday, Karl Williams, Allegheny County’s chief medical examiner, released the victims’ identities in a news conference.
Among those killed were a pair of brothers and a married couple. The oldest was 97 years old, and the youngest 54.
“To the victims’ families, to the victims’ friends, we’re here as a community of one for you,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. “We will be here to help you through this horrific episode. We’ll get through this darkest day of Pittsburgh’s history by working together.”
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, came from Edgewood Borough, Pennsylvania, and was a primary care physician in the area for many years, some of his patients told CNN.
His nephew, Avishai Ostrin, shared a photo on Facebook of his uncle, who he said always wore a bowtie that “made people smile” and “made his patients more at ease.”
“You know how they say there are people who just lighten up a room? You know that cliche about people whose laugh is infectious? That was Uncle Jerry,” he wrote. “It wasn’t a cliche. It was just his personality.”
Ostrin said if there was a message his uncle would want everyone to take from the tragedy, “it would be a message of love, unity, and of the strength and resilience of the Jewish people.”
Susan Blackman knew Rabinowitz for at least 35 years, she told CNN. He was her family doctor and cared for her three children. She went to see Rabinowitz every quarter.
“He was like a member of the family, and a member of the extended family,” she said. “Like somebody you know that’s always part of your community. … Dr. Jerry was just somebody who, when you see him, your eyes light up.”
“I can’t imagine the world without him,” she said.
Brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal
Cecil and David Rosenthal, 59 and 54, were from Squirrel Hill.
According to their obituaries posted by the Ralph Schugar Chapel, Cecil was a devoted Tree of Life congregant. David worked for Goodwill Industries, and was a hard worker who was recognized for his commitment a number of times.
ACHIEVA, a Pittsburgh nonprofit that provides support for people with disabilities, posted a statement about the Rosenthal brothers, calling them “two well-respected members of our community’ and “extraordinary men.”
“Cecil’s laugh was infectious. David was so kind and had such a gentle spirit. Together, they looked out for one another,” said Chris Schopf, a vice president for residential support at ACHIEVA. “They were inseparable. Most of all, they were kind, good people with a strong faith and respect for everyone around.”
The brothers always sat in the back of the temple and greeted people as they came in to worship, according to Suzan Hauptman, who told CNN she grew up at Tree of Life synagogue.
“They were like the ambassadors because they were always there,” she said. “And they will always be there in our hearts.”
Laura Berman, the cantor of Temple Sinai, said Cecil was a “beautiful man” and a “sweet, gentle soul.”
“The kindest soul you would ever meet,” she said. “A smiling face. He was one of those embodiments of the community. Just open, warm, smiling, wanting to help and just in his beautiful simplicity. That’s who he was.”
Rose Mallinger, a 97-year-old from Squirrel Hill, was the “sweetest, lovely lady,” said Friedman, who told CNN that Mallinger was a secretary in her school’s office growing up.
Mallinger regularly attended the synagogue with her daughter, Friedman said, and likely knew everyone there. She always offered a friendly greeting, a hug and a smile.
Despite her age, Mallinger was “spry” and “vibrant,” Friedman said.
“She had a lot of years left.”
Bernice and Sylvan Simon
The Simons, a married couple from Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, were “kind, generous and good-hearted individuals,” according to their neighbor, Jo Stepaniak.
She lived next to 84-year-old Bernice and 86-year-old Sylvan for nearly 40 years, she said, and they were the “sweetest people you could imagine.
“They wanted to give back to people and be kind,” Stepaniak said, adding that the Simons always tried to help out in their small neighborhood and in the Jewish community.
“They were loving and giving and kind,” she said, “gracious and dignified.”
Joyce Fienberg and her late husband, Stephen, were intellectual powerhouses, but those who knew them say they were the kind of people who used that intellect to help others.
Joyce Fienberg, 75, who was among the victims in Saturday’s shooting, spent most of her career at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center, retiring in 2008 from her job as a researcher looking at learning in the classroom and in museums. She worked on several projects including studying the practices of highly effective teachers.
Dr. Gaea Leinhardt, who was Fienberg’s research partner for decades, said she is devastated by the death of her colleague and friend.
“Joyce was a magnificent, generous, caring, and profoundly thoughtful human being,” she said.
The research center’s current director, Charles Perfetti, said Fienberg earned her bachelor’s degree in social psychology from the University of Toronto, in her native Canada.
She brought a keen mind, engaging personality and “a certain elegance and dignity” to the center, Perfetti said.
“One could have elevated conversations with her that were very interesting,” even if they were brief, he said. “I was always impressed with her.”
Stephen, who died in 2016 after a battle with cancer, was a renowned professor of statistics and social science at Carnegie Mellon University. His work was used in shaping national policies in forensic science, education and criminal justice.
The couple married in 1965 and had moved to Pittsburgh in the early 1980s. Joyce began her work at the center in 1983. The couple had two sons and several grandchildren.
Richard Gottfried was preparing for a new chapter in his life.
Gottfried ran a dental office with his wife and practice partner Margaret “Peg” Durachko Gottfried. He and his wife met at the University of Pittsburgh as dental students, according to the Washington Post, and opened their practice together in 1984.
Gottfried, who often did charity work seeing patients who could not otherwise afford dental care, was preparing to retire in the next few months.
He, along with Wax and Stein, “led the service, they maintained the Torah, they did what needed to be done with the rabbi to make services happen,” Cohen said.
“He died doing what he liked to do most,” said Don Salvin, Gottfried’s brother-in-law, told the Washington Post.
Daniel Stein was a visible member of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community, where he was a leader in the New Light Congregation and his wife, Sharyn, is the membership vice president of the area’s Hadassah chapter.
“Their Judaism is very important to them, and to him,” said chapter co-president Nancy Shuman. “Both of them were very passionate about the community and Israel.”
Stein, 71, was president of the Men’s Club at Tree of Life. He also was among a corps of the New Light members who, along with Wax and Richard Gottfried, 65, made up “the religious heart” of the congregation, said Cohen, the congregation co-president.
Stein’s nephew Steven Halle told the Tribune-Review that his uncle “was always willing to help anybody.”
With his generous spirit and dry sense of humor, “he was somebody that everybody liked,” Halle said.
Melvin Wax was always the first to arrive at New Light Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood — and the last to leave.
Wax, who was in his late 80s, was among those killed when a gunman entered the synagogue Saturday and opened fire a few minutes after Sabbath services began. Fellow members of the congregation, which rented space in the lower level of the Tree of Life Synagogue, said Wax was a kind man and a pillar of the congregation, filling just about every role except cantor.
“He was a gem. He was a gentleman,” recalled fellow congregant Barry Werber on Sunday. “There was always a smile on his face.”
Myron Snider spoke late Saturday about his friend who would stay late to tell jokes with him. He said “Mel,” a retired accountant, was unfailingly generous and a pillar of the congregation.
“If somebody didn’t come that was supposed to lead services, he could lead the services and do everything. He knew how to do everything at the synagogue. He was really a very learned person,” said Snider, a retired pharmacist and chairman of the congregation’s cemetery committee.
“He and I used to, at the end of services, try to tell a joke or two to each other. Most of the time they were clean jokes. Most of the time. I won’t say all the time. But most of the time.”
New Light moved to the Tree of Life building about a year ago, when the congregation of about 100 mostly older members could no longer afford its own space, said administrative assistant Marilyn Honigsberg. She said Wax, who lost his wife Sandra in 2016, was always there when services began at 9:45 a.m.
“I know a few of the people who are always there that early, and he is one of them,” she said.
Snider had just been released from a six-week hospital stay for pneumonia and was not at Saturday’s services.
“He called my wife to get my phone number in the hospital so he could talk to me,” Snider said. “Just a sweet, sweet guy.”
A neighbor in Pittsburgh’s Mount Washington neighborhood on Sunday remembered victim Irving Younger as “a really nice guy.”
Jonathan Voye told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Younger, 69, was personable and occasionally spoke with him about family or the weather.
“I’m scared for my kids’ future,” Mr. Voye told the Post-Gazette. “How can you have that much hate for your fellow neighbor?”
Tina Prizner, who told the Tribune-Review she’s lived next door to Younger for several years, said he was a “wonderful” father and grandfather.
The one-time real estate company owner “talked about his daughter and his grandson, always, and he never had an unkind word to say about anybody,′ Prizner told the Tribune-Review.