Eldest victim in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting was 97

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A 97-year-old widow. A new grandfather whose grandson was “the love of his life.”

A loving couple in their 80s who wed by candlelight at the synagogue nearly 62 years ago.

A pair of “inseparable” brothers who didn’t let their intellectual disabilities stop them from serving their congregation.

These are some of the bright lives — 11 in total, all Jewish, most of them seniors — snuffed out when gunman Robert Bowers opened fire in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh amid Shabbat services Saturday.

Another six people were wounded, and five of them remained hospitalized Sunday, with two listed in critical condition.

“The loss is incalculable,” said Stephen Cohen, co-president of the New Light Congregation, one of three groups that shares space at the Tree of Life in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

Mourners from miles around flocked to the synagogue Sunday to contribute to a sprawling memorial for the victims, many of whom they had never met. Most left bouquets and others signs with handwritten messages.

A few lit candles, flickering against the wind and rain of a misty Sunday, to honor the dead:

Rose Mallinger, the eldest victim, was 97, but you wouldn’t have known it to look at her.

“She was a synagogue-goer, and not everybody is. She’s gone to the synagogue for a lifetime, no matter how many people are there,” a former Tree of Life rabbi, Chuck Diamond, told The Washington Post. “I feel a part of me died in that building.”

The retired school secretary, a mother to two and grandma to three, wasn’t the only member of her family touched by the assault.

Her daughter, Andrea Wedner, 61, was among the wounded, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Wedner is expected to recover.

Joyce Fienberg
Joyce FienbergCarnegie Mellon University

Joyce Fienberg, 75, was a devoted intellect who spent much of her life working as a researcher in the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center, focusing on childhood education.

“Joyce was a magnificent, generous, caring and profoundly thoughtful human being,” said Dr. Gaea Leinhardt, a colleague.

A Canadian native, Fienberg and her husband moved to Pittsburgh in the early ’80s. Fienberg worked as a researcher from 1983 until her retirement in 2008. She and her husband, who died in 2016, had two sons and several grandchildren.

Melvin Wax
Melvin WaxAP

“Sweet, sweet’’ Melvin Wax, 88, was a familiar face at Tree of Life, a pal said. The retired accountant was reliably among the first to arrive and last to leave, often attending services on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, said longtime friend Myron Snider.

“He was such a kind, kind person. He and I used to, at the end of services, try to tell a joke or two to each other,” Snider said. “Most of the time they were clean jokes. Most of the time.”

Richard Gottfried
Richard Gottfried

Richard Gottfried’s post-work life was just getting started. The 65-year-old dentist, who practiced with his wife, Margaret Durachko Gottfried, was looking forward to retirement in the next few months.

That’s not to say he didn’t love his work. The pair often performed charity work for the uninsured, putting smiles on the faces of those who couldn’t afford dental procedures.

Gottfried, with Stein and Wax, were fixtures in Tree of Life’s services, said Stephen Cohen, co-president of a congregation that shares space in the synagogue.

“[They] led the service, they maintained the Torah, they did what needed to be done with the rabbi to make services happen.”

Irving Younger
Irving YoungerFacebook

It could take a lot to get Irving Younger, 69, to open up, but once he did, he laid bare his love of his religion and his family, neighbors told the Tribune-Review.

“He was the most wonderful dad and grandpa,” neighbor Tina Prizner told the paper.

For many years, Younger ran a real-estate company based just blocks from Tree of Life and once helped coach a baseball team for kids age 6 to 15. Younger had a son and a daughter and, like Stein, was a new grandfather.

“He had two grandchildren in California he adored,” Toby Neufeld, who taught at the synagogue’s school, told The Washington Post. “He constantly showed us pictures of the kids and what they were doing.”

Jerry Rabinowitz
Jerry Rabinowitz

Jerry Rabinowitz dedicated his life to healing. The 66-year-old family physician working out of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Shadyside Hospital was remembered fondly by not only family but hundreds of patients whose lives he touched down through the years.

“I have been taking telephone calls all morning long from patients,” a colleague, Dr. Ken Ciesielka, told the Post-Gazette.

Rabinowitz’s nephew Avishai Ostrin paid tribute to his bowtie-wearing uncle on Facebook.

“You know how they say there are people who just lighten up a room? You know that cliche about people whose laugh is infectious?” he wrote. “That was Uncle Jerry.”

Sylvan and Bernice Simon knew Tree of Life well. The couple, 86 and 84, respectively, married in the synagogue in December 1956, neighbors in Wilkinsburg, Pa., told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

“They held hands, and they always smiled, and he would open the door for her,” resident Heather Graham told the paper. “It’s just horrific.”

Another neighbor, Michael Stepaniak, added, “I miss them terribly.”

Brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal were “inseparable.”

“Cecil’s laugh was infectious. David was so kind and had such a gentle spirit,” said Chris Schopf, vice president of residential supports at ACHIEVA, the Pittsburgh home for intellectually disabled adults where the brothers lived. “They were inseparable.”

Cecil, 59, and David, 54, were proud congregants, attending every Saturday.

“If they were here, they would tell you that is where they were supposed to be,” Schopf said.

Daniel Stein, 71, was a mostly retired father of two who spent his later years traveling with his wife, occasionally working as a substitute teacher and, most importantly, doting on his 1-year-old grandson, Henri.

“It’s going to be sad to have this child grow up without his grandfather,” Stein’s nephew, Steven Halle, told The Post. Henri, said Halle, was “the love of his life.”

On Facebook, Joe Stein, Daniel’s son and Henri’s dad, posted a photo of the baby in his grandpa’s arms. “Our lives are now going to have to take a different path,” he wrote. “One that we thought would not happen for a long time.”

With Wire Services