At 9:50 a.m. Oct. 27, at the start of Shabbat services at the Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Richard Bowers, 46, allegedly entered the sanctuary carrying three handguns and an assault rifle and opened fired on the congregants. Eleven members were killed and six injured, including four police officers.
According to several accounts of the rampage, Bowers said he wanted to kill Jewish people and spoke of genocide during the attack.
Bowers was described as “an isolated, awkward man who lived alone and struggled with basic human interactions, neighbors and others who knew him,” The New York Times reported.
According to CNN, among his many anti-Semitic social media posts were comments criticizing President Trump and suggesting that the president was surrounded by too many Jewish people. “Trump is surrounded by k****, things will stay the course,” read one post on the Gab social media platform. Gab advocates free speech and has very liberal restrictions on content, and has since been temporarily shut down.
When Bowers exited the synagogue, it’s reported he was shot by police and received multiple gunshot wounds. He remains in stable and fair condition. Four officers were wounded during his attack.
Officials said the suspect was in the synagogue for about 20 minutes. During his rampage, these are the 11 synagogue members, ages 54 to 97, that were killed:
Rose Mallinger, 97, was described as a sweet, vivacious woman who was full of life and seemed younger than her age, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Rumors initially released that Mallinger was a Holocaust survivor were false, although at least one Holocaust survivor who attends Tree of Life told The Washington Post he “survived a second time.” He had pulled into the parking lot four minutes late, while the shooting was happening.
Melvin Wax, 87, a retired CPA described by those who knew him as a kind and generous man.
Sylvan Simon, 86, and his wife Bernice, 84, were married at the Tree of Life in a candle-lit ceremony more than 60 years ago in December 1956, according to a wedding announcement and local news report.
Joyce Feinberg, 75, worked for more than 25 years on various research projects at the Learning Research & Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. Her husband, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, died in 2016.
Daniel Stein, 71, was a sweet and dependable guy, described as having two loves in life: his family and his faith, according to People magazine.
Irving Younger, 69, was described by neighbor, Tina Prizner, as “the most wonderful dad and grandpa,” The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, worked for 30 years as the personal doctor for Lawrence Claus, the former deputy district attorney in Allegheny County. “He had a truly uplifting demeanor, and as a practicing physician, he was among the very best,” Claus said.
Richard Gottfried, 65, and his wife, Margaret Durachko, “embodied love,” said an employee at the Catholic church she attended. They were an interfaith couple and both were dentists, according to the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine.
David Rosenthal, 54, and his brother, Cecil, 59, never missed a Shabbat at the synagogue, according to members. They were part of ACHIEVA, which provides services to people with disabilities and their families.
This tragedy has broken the hearts of many around the world and hits home with many Jewish Atlantans who are from Pittsburgh, where family and friends still reside.
“Pittsburgh is the city I will always call home. It is the place where I always feel safe and secure. It is the Jewish community that helped me with comfort and hope through so much loss. … How could there be a massacre in Pittsburgh – in a synagogue?” said Eric Robbins, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.
Beth Gluck grew up in Squirrel Hill, where the synagogue was located. “The attack was first and foremost an attack against my people. It was a premeditated anti-Semitic massacre. … While my family in Pittsburgh is OK, nobody is OK,” Gluck, the Southern Zone director for the Jewish National Fund, said in a message to the AJT.
Even though 29 federal charges have been filed against the alleged gunman, it doesn’t lessen the feelings of hatred and violation that are felt by Jews around the world. Communities are joining hands in solidarity to show support, and there continue to be dozens of vigils, memorials and dedication services throughout the Greater Atlanta area. Listings of services can be found at www.jewishatlanta.org/unitedwestand. The JFGA site is being updated daily.
There are no words that can thoroughly express the impact of this tragedy, which is being described as “likely the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States” by the Anti-Defamation League. However, Gluck offers thoughtful advice: “It’s really not a time to lean left or lean right. It’s a time to lean toward what’s good, toward what’s family. You don’t lean to the extremes. You lean to the healthy, vibrant center and you lean toward what you know is good.”
- Kaylene Ladinsky
- Pittsburgh Shooting
- Robert Bowers
- Rose Mallinger
- Melvin Wax
- Sylvan Simon
- Bernice Simon
- Joyce Feinberg
- Daniel Stein
- Irving Younger
- ADL Southeast
- Jerry Rabinowitz
- Richard Gottfried
- David Rosenthal
- Beth Gluck
- Eric Robbins
- jewish federation of greater atlanta
- Cecil Rosenthal
- Tree of Life synagogue