Mourners embrace after the hearse carrying the casket of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, one of 11 people killed while worshipping at the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday, arrives outside the Jewish Community Center in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Trump Heads To Pittsburgh As Funerals Begin For Synagogue Attack Victims

October 30, 2018 - 11:37 am
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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh's Jewish community began burying its dead Tuesday in the wake of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history.

The casket of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, a family doctor known for his caring and kindness, was brought to the Jewish Community Center in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood for the first of 11 funerals. Two police vehicles were parked at a side door, and two more were posted at the main entrance.

A line stretched around the block as mourners — some in white medical coats, some wearing yarmulkes, black hats or head scarves — passed beneath the blue Romanesque arches into the brick building, an American flag nearby fluttering at half-staff.

Funerals were also set Tuesday for Cecil and David Rosenthal, two intellectually disabled brothers in their 50s, 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 rampage at Tree of Life synagogue that authorities say was carried out Saturday by a gunman who raged against Jews.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump planned 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.

Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers told CNN that the president is "certainly welcome," while Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto asked Trump not to come while the city was burying its dead.

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." Some have accused the president of helping to create the corrosive political atmosphere that may have led to the violence.

The man arrested in the massacre, Robert Gregory Bowers, appeared briefly Monday in federal court, where he was ordered held without bail for a preliminary hearing on Thursday. He did not enter a plea. The 46-year-old truck driver faces hate-crime charges that could bring the death penalty.

The attack killed some of the synagogue's most dedicated members. The oldest victim was 97-year-old Rose Mallinger. At 54, David Rosenthal was the youngest.

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 a job 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 historic Jewish enclave in Pittsburgh.

"They were lovely souls, and they lived for the congregation" at Tree of Life, said Brian Schreiber, a member who is 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 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 congregations that worship 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.