World

'Incalculable' loss: Ranging in age from 54 to 97, Pittsburgh synagogue victims included doctors, professors

A 97-year-old woman, two brothers and a couple in their 80s were among the 11 worshippers murdered at a Pittsburgh synagogue in the deadliest attack ever on the Jewish community in the U.S., officials said Sunday.

11 worshippers killed in deadliest ever attack on Jewish community in the U.S.

Mourners grieve at an impromptu memorial at the Tree of Life synagogue following Saturday's shooting in Pittsburgh. The tragedy has reawakened dormant-but-never-forgotten concerns in the Jewish community. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)

A day after the shooting that left 11 dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue, friends and family members recalled the victims — professors and accountants, dentists and beloved doctors serving their local community.

Officials released the names of all 11 victims during a news conference Sunday, all of them middle-aged or elderly. The victims of the synagogue attack included a pair of brothers and a husband and wife. The oldest was 97.

Five of the victims lived in Squirrel Hill and the rest were from other Pittsburgh neighbourhoods and communities surrounding the city.

The names of the victims are: David and Cecil Rosenthal, 54- and 59-year-old brothers; Sylvan Simon, 86, and his wife Bernice Simon, 84; Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, Daniel Stein, 71, Melvin Wax, 88, and Irving Younger, 69, according to officials. The oldest victim was Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill.

Watch as Jeffrey Myers, rabbi at the Tree of Life synagogue, speaks at a vigil:  

Jeffrey Myers, rabbi at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 congregants were murdered, spoke at an interfaith memorial Sunday. 2:09

Stephen Cohen, co-president of New Light Congregation, said: "The loss is incalculable."

Here are some of their stories:

Joyce Fienberg: 'Amazing and giving person'

Joyce Fienberg, 75, grew up in Toronto, and attended Holy Blossom Temple in Forest Hill, before moving to Pittsburgh, where she worked as a researcher at Learning Research & Development Center (LRDC), a scientific organization at the University of Pittsburgh.

Fienberg's brother, Thornhill resident Bob Libman, told CBC Toronto "the family is grief stricken."

"[She was] the most amazing and giving person," he said.

Libman and his wife are driving down to Pittsburgh, where Fienberg was resident in a suburb called Oakland.

"She was very intellectual," Gaea Leinhardt, a colleague of Feinberg's from the University of Pittsburgh, told The Washington Post. "She never forgot anyone's birthday. She was always available for whatever one might need."

Her husband, the statistician Stephen E. Fienberg, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, predeceased her in 2016. She has two sons, Anthony and Howard, as well as grandchildren.

Melvin Wax: 'A sweet guy'

Melvin Wax was the first to arrive at New Light Congregation in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighbourhood — and the last to leave.

Wax, who was in his late 80s, was among those killed when a gunman entered the synagogue Saturday and opened fire at Sabbath services. Fellow members of the congregation, which rented space in the lower level of the Tree of Life Synagogue, says Wax was a kind man and a pillar of the congregation, filling just about every role except cantor.

Myron Snider spoke late Saturday about his friend who would stay late to tell jokes with him. He said "Mel," a retired accountant, was unfailingly generous.

Watch as religious leader Wasi Mohamed speaks during an interfaith vigil in Pittsburgh:

Wasi Mohamed, executive director of the Islamic Centre of Pittsburgh, spoke at an interfaith gathering to honour those killed in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. 0:59

"He was such a kind, kind person," said Snider, chairman of the congregation's cemetery committee. "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.

"He and I used to, at the end of services, try to tell a joke or two to each other. Most of the time they were clean jokes. Most of the time. I won't say all the time. But most of the time."

New Light moved to the Tree of Life building about a year ago, when the congregation of about 100 mostly older members could no longer afford its own space, said administrative assistant Marilyn Honigsberg. She said Wax, who lost his wife,Sandra, in 2016, was always there when services began at 9:45 a.m.

"I know a few of the people who are always there that early, and he is one of them," she said.

Snider said Wax, who was slightly hard of hearing, was a pillar of the congregation.

"He went Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, when there were Sunday services," said Snider, a retired pharmacist. "If somebody didn't come that was supposed to lead services, he could lead the services and do everything. He knew how to do everything at the synagogue. He was really a very learned person."

Snider had just been released from a six-week hospital stay for pneumonia and was not at Saturday's services.

"He called my wife to get my phone number in the hospital so he could talk to me," Snider said. "Just a sweet, sweet guy."

Jerry Rabinowitz: 'trusted confidant, healer'

Former Allegheny County Deputy District Attorney Law Claus remembered Jerry Rabinowitz, a 66-year-old personal physician and victim in Saturday's shooting, as more than a physician for him and his family for the last three decades.

"He was truly a trusted confidant and healer," he wrote in an email to his former co-workers on Sunday.

Two people support each other in front of flowers at a makeshift memorial at the synagogue. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

He said Rabinowitz had an uplifting demeanour and would provide sage advice.

"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 humour," Claus said. "He had a truly uplifting demeanour, and as a practicing physician he was among the very best."

Daniel Stein: 'Passionate about the community' 

Daniel Stein was a visible member of Pittsburgh's Jewish community, where he was a leader in the New Light Congregation and his wife, Sharyn, is the membership vice-president of the area's​ Hadassah chapter.

"Their Judaism is very important to them, and to him," said chapter co-president Nancy Shuman. "Both of them were very passionate about the community and Israel."

Police officers walk outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in the aftermath of a deadly shooting yesterday in Pittsburgh, early Sunday, Oct. 28. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

Daniel Stein, 71, was among a corps of the New Light members who, along with Wax and Richard Gottfried, 65, made up "the religious heart" of the congregation, helping the rabbi with anything and everything that needed to be done to hold services, Cohen, the congregation co-president, said.  

"They led the service. They maintained the Torah. They did what needed to be done with the rabbi to make our services happen.

Stein's nephew Steven Halle told the Tribune-Review that his uncle "was always willing to help anybody."

With his generous spirit and dry sense of humour, "he was somebody that everybody liked," Halle said.

With files from CBC News

now