A 97-year-old woman, a husband-and-wife couple in their 80s and a pair of brothers in their 50s were among the 11 people killed in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday by suspected gunman Robert Bowers.
Officials released the names of the victims, most of whom were elderly worshipers, at a press conference on Sunday.
Five of the victims lived in Squirrel Hill, the heavily-Jewish neighbourhood in which the synagogue is located. The rest were from other Pittsburgh neighbourhoods and communities surrounding the city.
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The oldest victim was identified as 97-year-old Rose Malinger.
Married couple Bernice Simon, 84, and Sylvan Simon, 86, also lost their lives in the massacre.
David and Cecil Rosenthal, aged 54 and 59, respectively, were identified as the brothers who were killed.
Toronto woman slain
The tragedy also has a Canadian connection. One of the 11 killed, 75-year-old Joyce Feinberg, grew up in Toronto and attended the city’s Holy Blossom Temple as a youth, the synagogue said in a Facebook post.
Yael Splansky, a rabbi at the synagogue, said a confirmation class photo of Feinberg’s still hangs on the temple’s wall of honour.
Feinberg spent most of her career at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center. She retired 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 Feinberg’s research partner for decades, says she is devastated by the murder of her colleague and friend.
“Joyce was a magnificent, generous, caring and profoundly thoughtful human being,” Leinhardt says.
A new grandfather
Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill was described as a family man who recently became a grandfather.
“He was somebody that everybody liked. Very dry sense of humour and recently had a grandson who loved him,” Stein’s nephew Steven Halle told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The co-president of the area’s Hadassah chapter, Nancy Shuman, says Judaism was very important to Stein. His wife, Sharyn, is the chapter’s membership vice president.
Shuman says, “Both of them were very passionate about the community and Israel.”
‘A sweet, sweet guy’
Melvin Wax, 88, of Squirrel Hill was described by fellow members of the New Light Congregation as a pillar of the congregation, filling many roles there.
Wax’s friend Myron Snider says the retired accountant, who was slightly hard of hearing, was unfailingly generous.
“When my daughters were younger, they would go to him, and he would help them with their federal income tax every year. Never charged them,” said Snider, 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.”
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Snider had just been released from a hospital stay for pneumonia, and was not at Saturday’s services in the synagogue. He said Wax called his wife to get his phone number in the hospital so he could talk to him.
“Just a sweet, sweet guy,” Snider said.
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Wax, Stein and 65-year-old Richard Gottfried, who was also killed in the massacre, were described as “the heart, the religious heart” of the New Light Congregation, according to its co-president Stephen Cohen.
“They led the service. They maintained the Torah. They did what needed to be done with the rabbi to make our services happen,” Cohen said.
Gottfried was also preparing for a new chapter in his life. The dentist, who often did charity work seeing patients who could not afford dental care normally, was preparing to retire in the next few months.
He ran a dental office with his wife.
‘A trusted confidant and healer’
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood was a personal physician described as someone who had an uplifting demeanour and provided sage advice.
“He was truly a trusted confidant and healer,” wrote former Allegheny County deputy district attorney Law Claus, who was a patient of Rabinowitz’s, in an email to his former co-workers. “Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz … could always be counted upon to provide sage advice whenever he was consulted on medical matters, usually providing that advice with a touch of genuine humour.”
The last victim is 69-year-old Irving Younger of Mt. Washington.
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Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said the city would rally around the victims’ family and friends.
“We’re here as a community of one for you,” he said. “We will be here to help you get through this horrific episode. We’ll get through this darkest day of Pittsburgh’s history by working together.”
Authorities say gunman Bowers made statements about genocide and killing Jewish people, and yelled “All Jews must die” when he stormed the synagogue.
He has been charged with 29 federal counts, including violence and firearms offences as well as violations of civil rights laws, and could face the death penalty.
Bowers is being treated for gunshot wounds and is due in court Monday.
— With files from the Associated Press