Synagogue victims' funerals begin as Trump heads to Pittsburgh
Photo courtesy of The Office of Gov. Tom Wolf
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Cecil and David Rosenthal lived together, worshipped together, made their way through life together, two intellectually disabled brothers in their 50s who were ensconced in Pittsburgh's close-knit Jewish community.
And on Tuesday, they will be buried there together, in one of the first funerals to follow the shooting that killed the brothers and nine other people at Tree of Life synagogue.
Funerals were also set Tuesday for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, a family-medicine practitioner known for his caring and kindness, and Daniel Stein, a man seen as part of the core of his congregation.
Other victims' funerals have been scheduled through Friday in a week of mourning, anguish and questions about the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.
MORE: 11 dead, 6 injured in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting | Police: Synagogue gunman said he wanted all Jews to die
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump plan to visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday to "express the support of the American people and to grieve with the Pittsburgh community," the White House said.
The plan elicited mixed feelings in Pittsburgh.
Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers told CNN that the president is "certainly welcome," while Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto asked the Republican president ahead of the announcement not to come while the first funerals were being held. Some other people, including shooting survivor Barry Werber, weren't keen on a visit from a president who has embraced the politically fraught term "nationalist."
The suspect in Saturday's massacre at Tree of Life synagogue, Robert Gregory Bowers, appeared briefly Monday in a federal court, where he was ordered held without bail for a court date Thursday. He didn't enter a plea.
Authorities say the 46-year-old truck driver, who is facing both state and federal charges, expressed hatred of Jews during and after the rampage.
The fusillade killed people at a synagogue where they were dedicated members. The oldest victim was 97-year-old Rose Mallinger. At 54, David Rosenthal was the youngest victim.
He and Cecil, 59, lived at a building run by Achieva, a disability-services organization that had worked with the brothers for years. David had worked with Achieva's cleaning service and at Goodwill Industries, and Cecil was hoping to start working soon at a workplace-services company, Achieva spokeswoman Lisa Razza told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
David was quieter than Cecil, who had a sociable personality that earned him a reputation as "the honorary mayor of Squirrel Hill," a venerable Jewish enclave in Pittsburgh.
"They were lovely souls, and they lived for the congregation" at Tree of Life, said Brian Schreiber, a member who's also president of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh.
Rabinowitz, 66, had a family medicine practice and was affiliated with UPMC Shadyside hospital. The UPMC hospital system described him as one of its "kindest physicians."
Rabinowitz also was a go-to doctor for HIV patients in the epidemic's early and desperate days, a physician who "always hugged us as we left his office," according to Michael Kerr, who credits Rabinowitz with helping him survive.
"Thank you," Kerr wrote on Facebook, "for having always been there during the most terrifying and frightening time of my life.... You are one of my heroes."
Stein, 71, was a visible member of Pittsburgh's Jewish community, where he was the men's club president at Tree of Life. He was among a trio of members who made up the "religious heart" of New Light Congregation, one of three that meets at the synagogue, co-president Stephen Cohen said.
Stein's nephew Steven Halle told the Tribune-Review that his uncle had a dry sense of humor and a willingness to help anybody.
"He was somebody that everybody liked," Halle said.