Synagogue shooting memorial

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Authorities ID 11 Killed In Shooting As Community Mourns

October 28, 2018 - 11:35 pm
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PITTSBURGH (WCBS 880/AP) -- The 11 people killed in the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh included a married couple, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, and two brothers, Cecil and David Rosenthal.

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 oldest was 97.

These are the people who were killed:

Joyce Feinberg, 75
Richard Gotfried, 65
Rose Mallinger, 97
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
Cesil Rosenthal (brother), 59
David Rosenthal (brother), 54
Bernice Simon (wife) - 84
Sylvan Simon (husband), 86
Daniel Stein, 71
Melvin Wax, 88
Irving Youngner, 69

Here are some of their stories:

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, says 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."

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."

Robert Gregory Bowers killed eight men and three women inside the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday during worship services before a tactical police team tracked him down and shot him, police said in an affidavit, which contained some unreported details on the shooting and the police response.

Bowers, who was armed with an AR-15 rifle and three handguns and used all four weapons in the attack, told an officer while he was being treated for his injuries "that he wanted all Jews to die and also that they (Jews) were committing genocide to his people," the affidavit said.

Bowers was charged late Saturday with 11 state counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation in what the leader of the Anti-Defamation League called the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. He was also charged Saturday in a 29-count federal criminal complaint that included charges of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs — a federal hate crime — and using a firearm to commit murder. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the charges "could lead to the death penalty."

It wasn't clear whether Bowers had an attorney to speak on his behalf.

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.

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.

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 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, helping the rabbi with anything and everything that needed to be done to hold services, Cohen, the congregation co-president, said.

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.

The victims were remembered Sunday night in White Plains where 1,000 people attended a vigil at Congregation Kol Ami. 

When Cantor Shira Adler raised her voice to God at the interfaith service, she says she focused on the oldest victim, Rose Mallinger, who was a pillar of her synagogue and well-known to Adler who was the cantor at the Tree of Life congregation in the early 2000s.

She remembers one day her young daughter was running around the synagogue. Malinger smiled and said, "It was OK."

"Sort of giving this expression of, 'No, no it's OK. Let her be. Let her be,'" she recalled. "I appreciated the fact that while I was there trying to do my, quote, 'job,' members of our congregation, and Rose being one of them,  would warmly and graciously tolerate the toddlers running around."

Former Tree of Life Rabbi Chuck Diamond said he worried about  Mallinger as soon as he heard about the deadly shooting at the synagogue.

The 97-year-old had almost unfailingly attended services for decades, he told The Washington Post, and was among the first to walk in.

"I feel a part of me died in that building," Diamond said.

Brian Schreiber told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he regularly saw her at services.

"Rose was really a fixture of the congregation," Schreiber, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh, told the Post-Gazette.

Her daughter, Andrea Wedner, 61, was among the wounded, a family member said. She remains hospitalized.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.