Anger, grief and inspiration as Pittsburgh lays more synagogue victims to rest

By Faith Karimi, Steve Almasy and Eliott C. McLaughlin |CNN Newsource

A Pittsburgh community is experiencing a range of feelings and emotions — anger, grief, inspiration, renewed spirituality — that are bringing together residents and their supporters throughout the tightly knit enclave this week.

The Squirrel Hill neighborhood hosted another slate of funerals for victims of last weekend’s synagogue shooting, a day after President Donald Trump and his family encountered demonstrators denouncing his visit. Local and state leaders also declined to accompany him on his travels.

Another protest is scheduled Wednesday evening as University of Pittsburgh students plan to meet at a public square in the Oakland neighborhood to rally against hate and gun violence.

National Jewish leaders, meanwhile, are encouraging Americans of every faith to follow up last week’s deadly shooting by attending Shabbat services in their own hometowns in solidarity with Pittsburgh.

Mourners gathered Wednesday to bury some of the 11 people killed in the Saturday massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue. The funeral for 75-year-old Joyce Fienberg, a widow, grandmother and University of Pittsburgh research specialist, began Wednesday morning, while the funerals for Irving Younger, 69, and Melvin Wax, 87 — both big Pittsburgh Pirates fans — were held early afternoon.

Crowds packed funerals Tuesday, with long lines snaking through streets and busloads of people coming from synagogues nationwide. Pedestrians quietly watched as motorcades and hearses passed by, followed on foot by mourners dressed in black. Others held hands and wept.

At least three people have been laid to rest in public funerals this week: brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal and Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz. Additional funerals are planned Thursday.Those killed ranged in age from 54 to 97.

Despite protests, funerals focus on victims

The community united to mourn the victims of what’s believed to be deadliest attack against Jews in US history but was divided over a visit by Trump.

Trump came to Pittsburgh to pay his respects Tuesday despite a request by local leaders to stay away until the dead were buried.

As protesters condemned the visit, mourners attending the funerals focused on those killed.

The Rosenthal brothers were fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team, and about 100 players and staff members paid their respects at the Rodef Shalom Congregation.

Relatives shared stories of how the brothers loved their synagogue and spent time at the Jewish Community Center.

Rabinowitz was remembered as caring. He became known in Pittsburgh as the “one to go to” for HIV care because he treated everyone with dignity and respect, former patient Michael Kerr said. His patients are among those grieving his death.”

Anything you wanted done, Jerry was there to do it. (He) always helped out,” said Jean Clickner, who knew Rabinowitz for decades. “He’s a little guy, and he’s bigger than life.”

Neighbors protest visit

Trump was accompanied to Tree of Life by Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The President and first lady lit a candle inside the vestibule for the 11 victims.

Outside, the Trumps participated in placing stones, a Jewish custom, atop 11 Star of David markers planted in the ground outside the synagogue. Melania Trump lay single white rosebuds.

Some neighbors in Squirrel Hill protested the visit and held signs saying, “Words Matter,” “Strength Through Unity,” “Watch Your Words” and “Hate Does Not Work in Our Neighborhoods.”

Not everyone was against Trump’s visit though.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who was leading a service at Tree of Life when the shooting began, greeted the first couple at the synagogue and shared with them details of the horrific attack.

The Trumps also visited with wounded police officers at a hospital, the widow of a victim and others.

Rabbi says congregants unbowed

The shooting struck at the heart of Pittsburgh’s historically Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood and reverberated across the nation.

Myers said his congregants would be unbowed.

“We are Tree of Life, and as I said before to many, you can cut off some of the branches from our tree, but Tree of Life has been in Pittsburgh for 154 years. We’re not going anywhere,” he said. “We will be back stronger and better than ever.”

An online fundraiser for those affected by the massacre had raised more than $944,000 by early Wednesday.

Two victims, a 70-year-old man and a 61-year-old woman, remain in the hospital. The man, who is in critical condition, suffered organ problems stemming from the shooting, but he is getting much better, said Dr. Donald Yealy, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s head of emergency medicine.

Outreach efforts extended to first responders as well. Those injured in the shooting include four law enforcement officers. One of them, a 40-year-old officer who directly confronted the gunman and suffered wounds to his extremities and pelvis, has been upgraded to stable condition. The other three officers have been discharged, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The walls of the Zone 4 police station, blocks from the synagogue, were lined with handwritten notes from residents. Crowds gathered outside the precinct and chanted, “Thank you! Thank you!”Muslim communities also raised more than $180,000 in three days for the shooting victims.

Suspect faces federal and state charges

Suspect Robert Bowers, 46, faces 44 federal charges, including counts of hate crimes that are potentially punishable by death. He made his first court appearance Monday.

An investigator said Wednesday that the AR-15 rifle and three Glock handguns Bowers used in the attack were purchased legally.

Bowers was detained without bond, and his next court date is Thursday. The US attorney in Pittsburgh has started the process of seeking the death penalty.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said his office is looking into whether Bowers and others used social media platform Gab to incite violence based on evidence that the suspect posted anti-Semitic comments on the site. The state has not filed charges.

Andrew Torba, the CEO of Gab, defended the site. In an interview with CNN affiliate WBRE, he said he’s “horrified” the suspect used his site but said, “there are bad people in the world, and they are on every social network.”

During the interview, he wore a hat that said, “Make Speech Free Again.”

CNN’s Amir Vera and Jean Casarez contributed to this report.


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