We will never fully understand the hatred that prompted Saturday’s massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. It is an ancient hatred — one that has inspired wild conspiracy theories, brutal persecution, and mass murder across nations and centuries. Apart from Israel, America has done more than any country in history to combat the hatred and provide Jews with freedom and security.

Yet the slaughter in Pittsburgh is a reminder that, even in a country as philo-Semitic as the U.S., there are those who marinate in this ancient prejudice and go on to commit acts of pure evil.

Reading tributes to the 11 people who were killed, one is struck by the number of lives they touched. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, local carpet salesman Lou Weiss described what five particular victims — each of whom he knew personally — meant to the Tree of Life community:


They were more than good and lovely people. They were the stalwarts who would show up on time and help out.

Rose Mallinger, 97, would always be there, sitting next to her sister. Saturday she was next to her daughter Andrea who, like the whole family, is possessed of a permanent smile. Andrea was shot. Rose was murdered.

Cecil Rosenthal, 59, knew my wife from childhood. He had special needs and a youthful exuberance. His younger, thinner brother, David, had a more serious mien and spoke less. He too had special needs. Like his older brother, he was murdered.

Irv Younger, 69, was a sweet man with a shock of white hair who would do anything that needed to be done at the shul. Murdered.

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, was a member of Dor Hadash, a synagogue that rented space in the social hall. A family doctor, he escaped the initial assault and returned to help the survivors. He was murdered.


In an interview with the New York Times, lifelong Tree of Life congregation member Jeffrey Solomon spoke poignantly about Cecil and David Rosenthal, both of whom had developmental disabilities.

“I’ve said this many times, having nothing to do with this tragedy: You can feel what is good in the world when you talk to them, because they only talk to you about good things,” Solomon told the Times. “To say that everyone in the Pittsburgh Jewish community knows them is not even a remote exaggeration. They were both active participants in so much of life.”

As for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, he was shot while helping the wounded. “Uncle Jerry wasn’t killed in the basement of the building where the congregation was Davening, he was shot outside the room,” his nephew wrote on Facebook. “Why? Because when he heard shots he ran outside to try and see if anyone was hurt and needed a doctor. That was Uncle Jerry, that’s just what he did.”

His colleague Dr. Ken Ciesielka — with whom Rabinowitz attended both college and medical school — told NBC News that Rabinowitz was “one of the finest people I’ve ever met.”

The others killed on Saturday included an octogenarian couple, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, 84 and 86, who got married at Tree of Life back in 1956; a local dentist, Richard Gottfried, 65, who did volunteer work at the nonprofit Squirrel Hill Health Center; a retired University of Pittsburgh researcher, Joyce Fienberg, 75, whom former graduate students remembered as “a surrogate mother”; Daniel Stein, 71, a former president of the New Light Congregation (which holds services at Tree of Life); and a retired accountant, Melvin Wax, 88, who according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “was leading shabbat services in the basement of Tree of Life Saturday morning when the shooting began.”

Our hearts go out to their families, their friends, and everyone else affected by this most unspeakable crime.