Rampage victims’ funerals begin as Trump heads to Pittsburgh

Jerry Rabinowitz, Daniel Stein and brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal to be buried Tuesday by a community in mourning

Stars of David with names of those killed in a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, at a memorial outside the synagogue, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Stars of David with names of those killed in a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, at a memorial outside the synagogue, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Cecil and David Rosenthal lived together, worshiped together, made their way through life together, two intellectually disabled brothers in their 50s who were ensconced in Pittsburgh’s close-knit Jewish community.

And on Tuesday, they will be buried there together, in one of the first funerals to follow the shooting that killed the brothers and nine other people at Tree of Life synagogue.

Funerals were also set Tuesday for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, a family-medicine practitioner known for his caring and kindness, and Daniel Stein, a man seen as part of the core of his congregation.

Other victims’ funerals have been scheduled through Friday in a week of mourning, anguish and questions about the deadliest attack on Jews in US history.

The victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, October 27, 2018 (Facebook/Google Maps/JTA Collage)

US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump plan to visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday to “express the support of the American people and to grieve with the Pittsburgh community,” the White House said.

The plan elicited mixed feelings in Pittsburgh.

This undated photo provided by David DeFelice shows Cecil Rosenthal. Rosenthal was killed when a gunman opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (Courtesy of David DeFelice via AP)

Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers told CNN that the president is “certainly welcome,” while Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto asked the Republican president ahead of the announcement not to come while the first funerals were being held. Some other people, including shooting survivor Barry Werber, weren’t keen on a visit from a president who has embraced the politically fraught term “nationalist.”

The suspect in Saturday’s massacre at Tree of Life synagogue, Robert Gregory Bowers, appeared briefly Monday in a federal court, where he was ordered held without bail for a court date Thursday. He didn’t enter a plea.

Authorities say the 46-year-old truck driver, who is facing both state and federal charges, expressed hatred of Jews during and after the rampage.

The fusillade killed people at a synagogue where they were dedicated members. The oldest victim was 97-year-old Rose Mallinger. At 54, David Rosenthal was the youngest victim.

He and Cecil, 59, lived at a building run by Achieva, a disability-services organization that had worked with the brothers for years. David had worked with Achieva’s cleaning service and at Goodwill Industries, and Cecil was hoping to start working soon at a workplace-services company, Achieva spokeswoman Lisa Razza told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

David was quieter than Cecil, who had a sociable personality that earned him a reputation as “the honorary mayor of Squirrel Hill,” a venerable Jewish enclave in Pittsburgh.

Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, one of the 11 victims in the October 27, 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue. (Courtesy Avishai Ostrin)

“They were lovely souls, and they lived for the congregation” at Tree of Life, said Brian Schreiber, a member who’s also president of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh.

Rabinowitz, 66, had a family medicine practice and was affiliated with UPMC Shadyside hospital. The UPMC hospital system described him as one of its “kindest physicians.”

Rabinowitz also was a go-to doctor for HIV patients in the epidemic’s early and desperate days, a physician who “always hugged us as we left his office,” according to Michael Kerr, who credits Rabinowitz with helping him survive.

“Thank you,” Kerr wrote on Facebook, “for having always been there during the most terrifying and frightening time of my life…. You are one of my heroes.”

Stein, 71, was a visible member of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community, where he was the men’s club president at Tree of Life. He was among a trio of members who made up the “religious heart” of New Light Congregation, one of three that meets at the synagogue, co-president Stephen Cohen said.

Stein’s nephew Steven Halle told the Tribune-Review that his uncle had a dry sense of humor and a willingness to help anybody.

“He was somebody that everybody liked,” Halle said.

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