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Grieving with Pittsburgh

Families of the 11 people killed in the synagogue massacre Saturday begin to bury the dead amid a national outpouring of support

Free Press wire reports | 11/1/2018, 6 a.m.
Pittsburgh’s Jewish community began burying its dead following Saturday’s synagogue massacre. Funeral services were held Tuesday for a beloved family ...
Hundreds of people of different faiths, races and backgrounds raise lights of hope at the end of Tuesday night’s vigil at the Weinstein Jewish Community Center on Monument Avenue. Photo by Sandra Sellars Richmond Free Press

Rabbi Eli Wilansky lights a candle outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood on Saturday night following a deadly mass shooting at the temple. Memorial flowers and candles lined the site, despite the yellow police crime scene tape.

Rabbi Eli Wilansky lights a candle outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood on Saturday night following a deadly mass shooting at the temple. Memorial flowers and candles lined the site, despite the yellow police crime scene tape.

Richard Gottfried

Richard Gottfried

Jerry Rabinowitz

Jerry Rabinowitz

Cecil Rosenthal

Cecil Rosenthal

David Rosenthal

David Rosenthal

Bernice Simon

Bernice Simon

Sylvan Simon

Sylvan Simon

Daniel Stein

Daniel Stein

Melvin Wax

Melvin Wax

Irving Younger

Irving Younger

Pittsburgh’s Jewish community began burying its dead following Saturday’s synagogue massacre.

Funeral services were held Tuesday for a beloved family doctor, a pillar of the congregation, and two middle-aged brothers known as the Rosenthal “boys.”

Among the mourners at the Rosenthal brothers’ funeral was Dr. Abe Friedman, who typically sat in the back row of Tree of Life with the two men but was late to synagogue on Saturday and was not there when the gunman opened fire.

As he stood in line at the funeral, Dr. Friedman wondered why he had been spared.

“Why did things fall into place for me?” he asked. “I usually sit in the back row. In the last row, everyone got killed.”

Earlier in the day, thousands of mourners jammed a synagogue, a Jewish community center and a third, undisclosed site for the first in a weeklong series of funerals for victims of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.

Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, Daniel Stein and brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal were among the 11 people killed in the shooting rampage at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday.

The alleged shooter, Robert Bowers, 46, was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on 44 counts, including hate crimes. Prosecutors previously indicated they plan to seek the death penalty.

Mr. Bowers remains in jail, ahead of his arraignment, which was to be held Thursday.

According to authorities, the self-employed truck driver expressed hatred of Jewish people while firing his weapon and later told police, “I just want to kill Jews” and “All these Jews need to die.”

Authorities said Mr. Bowers went into the synagogue armed with an AR-15, a fast-firing semiautomatic weapon used in many of the nation’s mass shootings, and three handguns. A resident of the Baldwin suburb of Pittsburgh owned the guns legally and had a license to carry them.

Mr. Bowers was wounded in a shootout with police as he sought to flee the scene. He made his first appearance in court Monday in a wheelchair. He was wearing a blue shirt and handcuffs in facing initial charges that ensured he would not be released on bail.

Since the hate-filled incident, communities across the nation, including Richmond, have shown overwhelming support of the Squirrel Hill synagogue with vigils, donations and prayers. Pennsylvania’s Muslim communities had raised more than $140,000 by Tuesday for the victims of the attack and their families.

“We just want to know what you need ... If it’s people outside your next service protecting you, let us know. We’ll be there,” Wasi Mohamed, executive director of the Pittsburgh Islamic Center, told mourners at an interfaith gathering in Pittsburgh on Monday.

The NFL Pittsburgh Steelers held a moment of silence on Sunday before their game against the Cleveland Browns. After the game, Coach Mike Tomlin, who lives near the synagogue, urged players and the heartbroken city to “stay strong.”

With Tree of Life still cordoned off as a crime scene on Tuesday, more than 1,000 people poured into Rodef Shalom, one of the city’s oldest and largest synagogues, to mourn the Rosenthal brothers, ages 59 and 54.