February 18, 2020

Tree of Life Victims: Devout, Respected, Loved

The victims in the Oct. 27 shooting massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh came from a variety of backgrounds and had a wide range of life experiences, but they shared a common practice — regular attendance at Shabbat services.

Rose Mallinger
At age 97, the “vivacious” Mallinger was the oldest of the victims. Mallinger was a spirited, familiar figure in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood where she lived and at the Conservative synagogue where she prayed and participated for decades. She did not use a cane or a walker. Her 61-year-old daughter, who accompanied her to services, was shot in the arm during the attack and is expected to survive, according to people.com. Chuck Diamond, former rabbi of Tree of Life, told NPR “she was one of the younger ones among us.”

Joyce Fienberg
Born, raised and married in Toronto, Fienberg, 75, created a warm and rich community for herself in Pittsburgh, the Washington Post reported. She raised a family and eventually became “the ideal grandmother,” Gaea Leinhardt, Fienberg’s close friend and boss at the University of Pittsburgh research center, told the Post. She adored her two sons, Howard and Anthony, and was deeply active in the Tree of Life congregation, especially after her husband died in 2016, Leinhardt said.

Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz
A widely admired physician, Rabinowitz, 66, “was known for his his compassion and understanding of HIV/AIDS in the days when the disease was poorly accepted,” the Forward reported. “In the old days for HIV patients in Pittsburgh, he was the doctor to go to. He was known in the community for keeping us alive the longest,” a former patient, Michael Kerr, wrote to the Forward. Kerr said Rabinowitz literally held his hand during the most challenging days of his life. The Washington Post reported that Rabinowitz, who was also known for his trademark bow ties, had started administering to victims when he took a fatal bullet.

Richard Gottfried
Gottfried, 65, and his wife Peg Durachko, both dentists, married in 1980 and built a successful dental practice together over the past 34 years while they led independent lives religiously, according to the Washington Post. Gottfried, a member of the New Light congregation that met at Tree of Life, often led services; while Durachko was described by a friend as a “devout Catholic,” the Post reported. “The pair counseled soon-to-be married couples at St. Athanasius Parish, a Catholic church near their home,” a Post story said.

Daniel Stein
A “thrilled” new grandfather and former president of the New Light congregation, Stein, 71, was a retired salesman and substitute teacher, according to news reports. His son Joe posted a picture on Facebook showing Stein holding his grandson Henry. “My dad was a simple man and did not require much,” Joe Stein wrote in the post. “In the picture, he was having a great day doing two things he loved very much. He had just finished coming from synagogue, which he loved, and then got to play with his grandson which he loved even more!” A relative told Pittsburgh TV station WPXI, “there wasn’t one person in the community who didn’t like him.”

Cecil and David Rosenthal
Brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and David Rosenthal, 54, “were special needs people, and the synagogue embraced them,” former synagogue president Barton Schacter told People magazine.  Schacter said the brothers never missed a Shabbat at Tree of Life. The Rosenthals were described in People as “long-standing recipients” of the residential and employment services of ACHIEVA, an agency that provides services to people with disabilities and their families.

Bernice and Sylvan Simon
Bernice Simon, 84, and Sylvan Simon, 86, would have celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary in December, according to People magazine. Neighbors characterized the Simons as a courtly couple with him unfailingly holding doors for her when they left home or returned, People reported. “Lovely, good, kind, generous, compassionate, big-hearted, selfless people,” Jo Stepaniak, their next-door neighbor for almost 40 years, told the magazine.

Irving Younger
A real estate agent and former president of his neighborhood business association, Younger, 69, either would have been entering the synagogue in the hallway or handing out prayer books when the gunman struck, said Diamond, Tree of Life’s former rabbi. Diamond said he and Younger were close friends who loved to exchange jokes and shared a love for sports and politics, the Washington Post reported.  “He had two grandchildren in California he adored,” former teacher Toby Neufeld told people.com. “He constantly showed us pictures of the kids and what they were doing.”