PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - Mourners remembered brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal as “the helpers” at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, where they were among the 11 congregants shot to death on the Jewish Sabbath.
“At synagogue, Cecil handed out prayer books and told people what page they were on,” said Marci Caplan, who worked at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh and frequently drove Cecil, 59, and David, 54, home.
More than 1,800 people gathered for the Rosenthals’ funeral at another Pittsburgh synagogue, Rodef Shalom. They included residents of a home for people with disabilities where the brothers lived.
At the Jewish Community Center, about 2,000 people, including nurses in surgical scrubs, turned out for services for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, a family physician who still made house calls.
The funerals were the first of a series for the victims of Saturday’s attack by a gunman who shouted, “All Jews must die.” The Anti-Defamation League described it as the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.
Avowed anti-Semite Robert Bowers, 46, was charged with 29 federal felony counts and was ordered held without bail on Monday. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Journalists, barred from attending funerals for the Rosenthals and Rabinowitz, spoke to friends and family outside the Rodef Shalom synagogue and the community centre.
The Rosenthals’ loved ones recalled the brothers’ devotion to Judaism. “Their biggest thing became their religion,” said cousin Risé Cohen, 54.
“They were the helpers. They liked to greet people,” said Dana Gold, president and chief executive of Jewish Family and Community Services of Pittsburgh.
The brothers were a familiar sight on the corner of Forbes and Murray avenues in the city’s largely Jewish Squirrel Hill neighbourhood, not far from where they grew up and home to their synagogue. They liked to greet friends and strangers alike.
“Cecil was very friendly and would greet passersby, whether or not he knew them, saying ‘Hello’ to all the men and letting the women know how beautiful they looked,” Rosenthal cousin Pam Cohen, 68, said. “David was quieter.”
Outside the community centre, Rabinowitz was remembered as a caring physician and mentor.
“When he would come to the ICU, he lit up the whole (intensive care) unit,” said Roy Cook, 69, a retired nurse who worked at UPMC Shadyside Hospital. “He would spend quality time with us and teach and ask us our opinions.”
Michele Bucher, a patient for 25 years, choked up as she recalled Rabinowitz.
“He was old-school,” the 54-year-old woman said. “It went far beyond the appointment.”
She recalled Rabinowitz visiting her every morning when she was hospitalized with pneumonia. “He didn’t have to see me, but he came anyway.”
Bucher said the doctor had a way with words and frequently held hands with his patients.
“He was just precious. I feel like I’ve lost a father figure — and I have a father,” she said.
Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis