A day after the shooting that left 11 dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue, friends and family members recalled the victims — professors and accountants, dentists and beloved doctors serving their local community.
Officials released the names of all 11 victims during a news conference Sunday, all of them middle-aged or elderly. The victims of synagogue included a pair of brothers and a husband and wife.
The youngest victim was 54 and the oldest, 97.
Authorities say 46-year-old Robert Bowers killed eight men and three women inside the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday during worship services before a tactical police team shot and wounded him. Bowers faces state and federal charges.
Dr. Karl Williams, chief medical examiner for Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, named the victims as Joyce Feinberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Rose Mallinger, 97; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; Cecil Rosenthal, 59; David Rosenthal, 54; Bernice Simon, 84; Sylvan Simon, 86; Daniel Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 88; and Irving Younger, 69.
David and Cecil Rosenthal were brothers, and Bernice and Sylvan Simon were husband and wife.
Said Stephen Cohen, co-president of New Light Congregation: “The loss is incalculable.”
Here are some of their stories:
Melvin Wax: ‘A sweet, sweet, guy’
Melvin Wax was 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 at Sabbath services. Fellow members of the congregation, which rented space in the lower level of the Tree of Life Synagogue, say Wax was a kind man and a pillar of the congregation, filling just about every role except cantor.
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.
“He was such a kind, kind person,” said Snider, chairman of the congregation’s cemetery committee. “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.”
“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 said Wax, who was slightly hard of hearing, was a pillar of the congregation, filling just about every role except cantor.
“He went Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, when there were Sunday services,” said Snider, a retired pharmacist. “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.”
Cohen recalled Wax, along with victims Richard Gottfried, 65, and Daniel Stein, 71, as “the heart, the religious heart” of New Light.
“They led the service. They maintained the Torah. They did what needed to be done with the rabbi to make our services happen.”
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.”
Jerry Rabinowitz: ‘Trusted, confidant, healer’
Former Allegheny County Deputy District Attorney Law Claus remembered Jerry Rabinowitz, a 66-year-old personal physician and victim in Saturday’s shooting, as more than a physician for him and his family for the last three decades.
“He was truly a trusted confidant and healer,” he wrote in an email to his former co-workers on Sunday.
He said Rabinowitz had an uplifting demeanor and would provide sage advice.
“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 humor,” Claus said. “He had a truly uplifting demeanor, and as a practicing physician he was among the very best.”
My doctor Jerry Rabinowitz was among those killed in the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting. He took care of me up until I…
Rabinowitz was involved in the Reconstructionist congregation, Dor Hadash, that met in the building, at one time having served as its president.
“Jerry was one of the backbones of the congregation,” Laura Horowitz, a congregant, who wept when she read his name, told JTA. “He blows — he blew — the shofar on Yom Kippur.”
David and Cecil Rosenthal, brothers without hate
Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and David Rosenthal, 54, were both remembered for their contribution to the local Jewish community and “infectious” positivity.
“Neither man had one ounce of hate in their hearts. I grieve for these men.
They will be missed,” read a tweet by a member of the synagogue.
The two brothers “were both affected by mental challenges,” according to local Pittsburgh website TribLIVE, but were noted for their bright outlook on life.
Our friends with special abilities stand for everything that's great about our country & @bestbuddies: inclusion, acceptance, kindness, and a welcoming heart to all. Cecil Rosenthal led his whole life with these qualities, front and center. pic.twitter.com/8pFTGbvEav
— Anthony K. Shriver (@AnthonyKShriver) October 28, 2018
ACHIEVA, a group that works with people with disabilities, issued a statement mourning the loss of the Rosenthals, according to local Pittsburgh website TribLIVE.
”Cecil and David had a love for life and for those around them. As long-standing recipients of ACHIEVA’s residential and employment services, they were as much a part of the ACHIEVA family as they were their beloved neighborhood of Squirrel Hill,” the statement read. “They loved life. They loved their community. They spent a lot of time at the Tree of Life, never missing a Saturday.”
Literally anyone who attended Tree of Life during the last 40 years knew Cecil and David Rosenthal, who were gunned down…
Chris Schopf, vice president of residential supports at ACHIEVA, said the Rosenthals were “inseparable.”
“Cecil’s laugh was infectious. David was so kind and had such a gentle spirit. Together, they looked out for one another,” Schopf told TribLIVE. “They were inseparable. Most of all, they were kind, good people with a strong faith and respect for everyone around.”
Bernice and Sylvan Simon, eternal partners
Bernice Simon, 84, and her husband Sylvan Simon, 86, got married in the Tree of Life Synagogue in a December 1956 candlelight ceremony.
“They held hands and they always smiled and he would open the door for her, all those things that you want from another person,” Heather Abraham, neighbor of the Simons told TribLIVE. “They were really generous and nice to everybody. It’s just horrific.”
Michael and Jo Stepaniak, decades-old friends of the couple said they were inseparable.
“A loving couple and they’ve been together forever,” he said. “I hope they didn’t suffer much and I miss them terribly.”
Richard Gottfried, beloved uncle
Gottfried’s nephew honored his uncle in a tweet.
“Today I lost an important person in my life. My uncle was murdered doing what he loved, praying to G-D. I don’t want to live in a world where I must fear to live as a Jew. I thank everyone in BBYO for being so supportive and I hope this never happens again! #PittsburghStrong,” the tweet from Jacob Gottfried said.
Daniel Stein, a grandfather who regularly led services for the New Light congregation at the Tree of Life synagogue, had already been named late Saturday as one of the victims of the deadly shooting rampage.
Stein, 71, was a retired plumbing supplies salesman and lived with his wife in Squirrel Hill. He had two children and a grandchild.
“He was attending services at the synagogue like he does every Saturday, and next thing you know there’s text going around about an active shooter in Squirrel Hill at Tree of Life synagogue and we couldn’t get a hold of him,” Stein’s nephew Steven Halle told local media. “The phone calls just kept going through and he wasn’t picking up.”
Stein was a former president of New Light, which was one of three groups using the Tree of Life synagogue on 10 a.m. Saturday morning when shooter Bowers came in with a rifle and three handguns, raining bullets on congregants.
Daniel Legar, who was slated to lead services for one of the congregations and was tasked with opening the doors, was also shot in the attack, though his brother said doctors were cautiously optimistic he would pull through.
Legar, 70, is married and has two sons. He is a nurse and chaplain at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and is listed in critical condition.
Joyce Fienberg, ‘magnificent, generous, caring’
Joyce Fienberg and her late husband, Stephen, were intellectual power houses, but those who knew them say they were the kind of people who used that intellect to help others.
Fienberg was among the 11 victims of a gunman who entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday and opened fire.
The 74-year-old 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 murder of her colleague and friend.
“Joyce was a magnificent, generous, caring, and profoundly thoughtful human being,” she said.
Irving Younger, beloved grandfather
Younger, 69, was a father and grandfather who had recently undergone surgery, his neighbor told the Post-Gazette.
“He was a really nice guy,” Jonathan Voye told the newspaper. He also reportedly volunteered as a Little League coach.