Pittsburgh Synagogue Victims ID'd; Gunman Wanted All Jews To Die
- May 8, 2020
- No Comments
PITTSBURGH, PA — Two brothers and a husband and wife were among the eight men and three women slain when a gunman opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday, officials announced. Armed with an AR-15 and three Glock handguns, the lone shooter, identified as Robert Bowers, began his rampage Saturday morning at the Tree of Life synagogue, authorities said. The massacre, likely the deadliest assault on the Jewish community in American history, rocked the diverse Squirrel Hill neighborhood and led alarmed religious leaders to express “grave concern” for the country’s Jewish population.
Dr. Karl Williams, chief medical examiner of Allegheny County, identified the victims at a press conference Sunday as: Joyce Fienberg, 75, of Oakland; Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross Township; Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood Borough, Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill and his 54-year-old brother David, also of Squirrel Hill; Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg, and her 86-year-old husband Sylvan; Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill; Melvin Wax, 88, of Squirrel Hill; and Irving Younger, 69, of Mt. Washington.
Stein previously served as president of the New Light Congregation and was known for his dry sense of humor and willingness to help others. He was also a grandfather who attended services every week, TribLive reported.
Fienberg was a former research specialist at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh, CNN reported. One of her former Ph.D students said she treated her students as if they were her family, even sending them cards long after they’d left.
“Everyone says thus, but she really was an enormously caring person,” Connor told CNN. “She was a very petite woman but lit a room up with her huge personality.”
She was also reportedly married to professor Stephen Fienberg, who taught statistics and social science at Carnegie Mellon University and who died two years ago.
Members of New Light Congregation told The Associated Press that Wax, a retired accountant, was kind and generous. He was a pillar of the congregation who filled just about every role except cantor.
“He was such a kind, kind person,” Myron Snider, chairman of the congregation’s cemetery committee, told AP. “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.”
Wax, along with victims Gottfried and Stein, were the “heart” of the congregation Stephen Cohen, co-president of New Light, told AP.
“They led the service. They maintained the Torah. They did what needed to be done with the rabbi to make our services happen.
Gottfried and his wife opened a dental practice in the mid-1980s, CNN reported. Patrick Mannarino, superintendent of the North Hills School District, told his community Gottfried had been the district’s dentist for a long time.
Rabinowitz, a personal physician, was a “trusted confidant and healer” who had a positive disposition and was known to give others words of wisdom, former county Deputy District Attorney Law Claus wrote in an email to his former co-workers, according to AP.
“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.”
Cecil and David Rosenthal
The two siblings were almost always in the synagogue, The New York Times reported, and they were known to greet others with a “Good Shabbos” and a prayer book. Cecil, who was developmentally disabled, lived independently and both spent a lot of their time at the nearby Jewish Community Center. David worked for Goodwill Industries, CNN reported. He worked hard and was recognized for his work ethic multiple times.
The local nonprofit group ACHIEVA, which supports people with disabilities, called the two brothers “extraordinary.”
“Cecil’s laugh was infectious,” Chris Schopf, vice president for residential support, said in a statement. “David was so kind and had such a gentle spirit. Together, they looked out for one another.”
Mallinger, known as a matriarch of her family, was once a school secretary who routinely attended the synagogue with her daughter, CNN reported. Robin Friedman told the news outlet she was spry and vibrant for her age and met people with a friendly greeting, a hug and a smile.
“She had a lot of years left,” said Friedman.
Bernice and Sylvan Simon
The Simons were kind, generous and good-hearted, neighbor Jo Sepaniak told CNN. They were the “sweetest people you could imagine,” said Sepaniak.
“They wanted to give back to people and be kind,” Sepaniak said.
Younger, a father, grandfather, small business owner and youth baseball coach, was known to be quiet, but would open up about his two greatest passions — faith and family, according to TribLive.
“He was the most wonderful dad and grandpa,” longtime neighbor Tina Prizner told the news outlet. “He talked about his daughter and his grandson, always, and he never had an unkind word to say about anybody.”
Prizner, who grew up in Squirrel Hill and went to Taylor Allderdice High School, operated a real estate company for years near the synagogue, TribLive reported. He was also a devout participant in his congregation.
“He went every day. He was an usher at his synagogue, and he never missed a day,” Prizner said. “He’d come home, maybe grab a bite to eat and go back again.”
A GoFundMe campaign created to raise money for the congregation had surpassed $344,000 in donations as of Sunday afternoon.
Two additional congregants were also hurt in the shooting along with four police officers. One officer was shot in the hand and another was hurt by shrapnel and broken glass. One officer was released Saturday and another will be released Sunday. The other two need additional assistance, officials said, and will remain hospitalized.
Bowers, 46, exchanged gunfire with police officers as he tried to leave the synagogue, authorities said. He was hurt in the altercation and remains hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds. Bowers is charged with 11 state counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation. He was also charged federally with obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs — a federal hate crime — and using a gun to commit murder. Bowers, who could face the death penalty, is schedueld to make an initial court appearance on Monday.
Officials estimated it could take up to a week to process the crime scene. The area will remain closed until then and additional patrols have been assigned to various locations throughout the city.
While he had no criminal past, Bowers has a long history of spewing anti-Semitic rhetoric. Citing police sources, KDKA reported that the shooter yelled “All Jews Must Die” when he walked into the building.
He told police after the massacre that Jews were committing genocide and that he wanted them all to die. In his biography on the social media network Gab — which has become increasingly popular among white nationalists — he wrote that “Jews are the children of Satan.” He posted conspiracy theories, including that Jews controlled the country, and yearned for others to see what percieved as reality, according to The New York Times.
Bowers wrote: “IT’s the filthy EVIL jews Bringing the Filthy EVIL Muslims into the Country! !”
In another post hours before the rampage, he railed against the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish non-profit organization dedicated to helping refugees.
“HIAS liked to bring invaders in that kill our people,” wrote Bowers. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
Mayor Bill Peduto called it the “darkest day of Pittsburgh’s history” and said the country needs to examine how to keep guns out of the hands of people who want to express hatred through violence. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolfe, also a Democrat, said dangerous weapons are putting people “in harm’s way.”
Peduto called the Jewish community the “backbone” of Squirrel Hill, and the numbers back that up. Researchers at Brandeis University wrote in a 2017 study that the neighborhood has historically been the center of Jewish life in the Pittsburgh area. Today, it is home to just over a quarter of Jewish households in the Pittsburgh area.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called the assault the “single most lethal and violent attack” on the Jewish community in American history.
“We’ve never had an attack of such depravity where so many people were killed,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “When you go into a synagogue, saying ‘I want to kill all the Jews,’ that’s a hate crime.”
Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, sounded the alarm in an emailed statement Sunday to Patch, saying he had “grave concern” for American Jews and the country. He said he has had to write too many condolence and solidarity messages to ethnic and religious groups that have increasingly been targeted with hate and violence.
“Our nation is in danger,” said Rosen.
He called on America’s leaders on both sides of the aisle to counter the “dark forces coursing through America.”
President Donald Trump called the shooting an “evil anti-Semitic attack” and said the outcome couldn’ve been different if the synagogue had “some kind of protection” from an armed guard — an assertion directly refuted by Rosen.
“Armed security guards are not the answer,” Rosen said.
Trump has ordered flags at federal buildings nationwide to be flown at half-staff and plans to travel to Pittsburgh at some point.
GoFundMe is a Patch promotional partner.
Photo credit: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Click Here: nrl shops