Tree of Life Synagogue victims: Remembering who they were and how they lived

May their memory be for a blessing.

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We remember the 11 slain victims of the Shabbat massacre on Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue. The fallen includes two inseparable brothers, a couple married for 62 years, and a family doctor who assisted patients in the early days of the AIDS crisis. May their memory be for a blessing. 

Joyce Feinberg, 75

"She was a very petite woman but lit up a room with her huge personality," said Jason Connor, a Ph.D. student of her late husband, Stephen, a professor emeritus at Carnegie Mellon University. Joyce and Stephen would open their homes to Stephen's students, and treat them like family, Jason explained. A mother and a grandmother, Joyce retired in 2008 from her job as a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center looking at learning in the classroom and in museums. Her colleagues called her a "cherished friend." 

Richard Gottfried, 65

A dentist, Richard worked a couple days a week at Squirrel Hill Health Center, a non-profit health center that counts immigrants and refugees as half of its patients. Health Center CEO Susan Friedberg Kalson said this of Richard: "As Jews, we work to heal the world," she said. "He lived that." Richard was Jewish and his wife, Peg, was Catholic. The couple--who ran a dental practice together--would help prepare interfaith couples for marriage. Richard's nephew Jacob Gottfried 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…"  

Rose Mallinger, 97

Rose came to pray at the synagogue every Shabbat. A retired school secretary, Rose had two children and three grandchildren. Her daughter, Andrea Wedner, 61, was among those wounded in the attack and is expected to recover. "To Bubbe, family was everything," Rose's family said in a statement. "She knew her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren better than they knew themselves. She retained her sharp wit, humor, and intelligence until the very last day." Chuck Diamond, a former rabbi at Tree of Life, said, that despite her age, Rose was "one of the younger among us, I have to tell you, in terms of her spirit."

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66

Jerry, a family physician, was known for wearing bowties that made people smile and putting his his patients at ease, described his nephew Avishai Ostrin. Jerry's former patient recalled that in the early days of the AIDS crisis, Jerry was among a handful of doctors treating patients with dignity and respect. "Basically, before there was effective treatment for fighting HIV itself, he was known in the community for keeping us alive the longest," Michael Kerr recalled. "He often held our hands (without rubber gloves) and always hugged us as we left his office." Jerry found a second home at Dor Hadash, the Reconstructionist congregation that was housed in the Tree of Life synagogue. Though he wasn't initially in the service when the shooting began, when he heard shots, he ran toward the victims to see if anyone needed a doctor. As Avishai said, "That was Uncle Jerry, that's just what he did."

David Rosenthal, 54, and Cecil Rosenthal, 59

David and Cecil weren't just brothers--they were best friends. They were even roommates at a residential home operated by ACHIEVA, which provides services for people with intellectual disabilities. "Cecil's laugh was infectious. David was so kind and had such a gentle spirit. Together they looked out for each other," said Chris Schopf of ACHIEVA. At synagogue, Cecil and David were often the first faces congregants saw as they arrived for services. Their middle sister, Diane, said in her eulogy that her brothers served as role models. "[They] remind us of how we should try to live our lives," she said. "Embracing joy or love or happiness without making judgments or resenting people or hate."

Bernice Simon, 84, and Sylvan Simon, 86   

Bernice and Sylvan's three children and six grandchildren described them as the quintessential bubbe and zayde. The couple married at the Tree of Life synagogue 62 years and have been attending services almost every Shabbat since. It was hard to reach them on their home phone, said their eldest son, Marc, because they were always running around, so active in their community. "Our parents did everything together as a married couple," he said. "They were deeply in love with each other." As their neighbor Heather Graham said : "They held hands and they always smiled, and he would open the door for her, all those things that you want from another person." 

Daniel Stein, 71

Daniel once served as president of the New Light Congregation, one of the three congregations that were housed in the synagogue building . His wife, Sharyn, works for the local chapter of Hadassah. "He was always willing to help anybody," said his nephew, Steven Halle. "He was somebody that everybody liked, [with] a very dry sense of humor and [he] recently had [had] a grandson who loved him." 

Melvin Wax, 88

A retired accountant, a grandfather, and a devoted Pittsburgh Pirates fan, Melvin was described by fellow congregants as a "pillar" of the congregation. He was a leader of Or Chadash, or New Light Congregation, which moved into the Tree of Life Congregation building last year. Synagogue was "as important to him as breakfast is to most people," said Melvin's family friend, Bill Cartiff. In fact, Melvin was leading his congregation's services at the time of the attack . Myron Snider, a friend and fellow congregant, described Melvin as generous and kind. He added that they shared mostly clean jokes at the end of each service. "If you look in the dictionary under the word unselfish, you'll see the name Melvin Wax because he was one of the most unselfish people I've known in my entire life," said Melvin's cousin, Rabbi Harvey Brotsky. "If anyone on this earth walked humbly with their God, it was Mel Wax. He did not have a conceited bone in his body."

Irving Younger, 69

Irving would greet Tree of Life members with a big smile and a handshake. "He was a guy that, when you walked in, he was the first person [who] would meet you and help you find a seat," said Irving's friend and former synagogue president Barton Schachter. Irving was a father, a grandfather, and a former Little League coach. His neighbor, Tina Prizner, said this of Irving: "He was a beautiful person, a beautiful soul."

Eight other people were also injured in the attack: congregants Andrea Wedner and Daniel Leger; and police officers--Anthony Burke, Timothy Matson, Daniel Mead, Tyler Pashel, John Persin, and Michael Smidga. We pray for their healing.  

~This piece was compiled with reporting from  JTA's Ben Sales and Arielle Kaplan; as well as information from CNN , Time Magazine, the Associated Press , the Toronto-City News , the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette , and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review .

"As Jews we work to heal the world; he lived that. "

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