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 synagogue included a pair of brothers and a husband and wife. The oldest was 97.
Said Stephen Cohen, co-president of New Light Congregation: “The loss is incalculable.”
Here are some of their stories:
MELVIN WAX: ‘A SWEET, SWEET GUY’
Melvin Wax was the first to arrive at New Light Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood — 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.
“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, filling just about every role except cantor.
“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.”
Cohen recalled Wax, along with victims Richard Gottfried, 65, and Daniel Stein, 71, as “the heart, the religious heart” of New Light.
“They led the service. They maintained the Torah. They did what needed to be done with the rabbi to make our services happen.
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.
He said Rabinowitz had an uplifting demeanor 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 humor,” Claus said. “He had a truly uplifting demeanor, and as a practicing physician he was among the very best.”
Associated Press reporter Allen G. Breed in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this story. Lauer reported from Philadelphia.