Monday, October 29, 2018

Remembering The Victims Of The Squirrel Hill Synagogue Shooting

Now that we know the victims of Saturday's horrific shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, I want to share some of their stories. I really don't want to hear about the gunman and his hatred. Law enforcement, lawyers, and a judge and jury will take care of that. This post is to remember those who tragically lost their lives just for being at synagogue. Please note that stories below are from friends who posted them on Facebook as well as links from newspapers and websites.

Dan Stein

* Yesterday was the worst day of my life! My dads life was taken at the Tree of Life shooting. My mom, sister and I are absolutely devastated and crushed! Our lives now are going to have to take a different path, one that we thought would not happen for a long time. My dad was a simple man and did not require much. In the picture below he was having a great day doing two things he loved very much. He had just finished coming from synagogue, which he loved, and then got to play with his grandson which he loved even more! We love you dad more than you’ll ever know! Thanks in advance for all the love and support!

* Dan was an inspiring man. Hands down the best coach I ever had. With a big heart filled with compassion, he helped us young boys become the men we are today. Our thoughts are with you.

The Tribune-Review also published an article titled "Squirrel Hill shooting victim Dan Stein remembered as a kind soul."

Mel Wax

* Mel Wax was a fixture in my synagogue growing up, called New Light. He was my informal bar mitzvah tutor, I guess you could call it, helping teach the prayers. He *always* told jokes. He treated me like a real person, not just a kid. We were a small synagogue, and if there wasn’t a minyan (a minimum of 10 people) on a Saturday morning, he’d use the Temple’s phone to call me to get the hell down there. (They had decided you could use the phone on Shabbat if you were trying to put together a minyan. Sensible rule.). I’ve worn tefillin exactly once in my life, but it was Mel who had the patience to show me what to do and take me through the ritual. He was probably the one person besides our parents to give positive feedback on the Purim plays that [name redacted] and I would write together, which looking back on it were *insane* (setting the Purim story in the middle of the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings, with lines for each member on the Judiciary Committee? Why not!). I have a very distinct memory of Mel shaking his head watching a Steelers-49ers game all at the Temple when a rookie Barry Foster forgot to field the kickoff, resulting in the longest onside kick in NFL history. And he greeted me warmly when I came home for the high holidays my freshman year of college, asking me how life was all the way on the other side of the state.

Mel Wax was a good man. You all know a Mel Wax, at your church or synagogue or mosque or school or in your neighborhood. A person who makes an impact on others just be being themselves and doing what they do week in and week out. Mel Wax was murdered yesterday in a terrible act, along with 10 others — including other parents or friends of friends — doing what he did every single Saturday morning for his entire life, precisely *because* of what he was doing.

Mel, your memory is a blessing.

Cecil and David Rosenthal

* When you hear the names Cecil and David Rosenthal today, please know they were joyous men who overcome so many challenges and obstacles to life. They were so much more than our neighbors in Stanton Heights. With a mother named Joy, they couldn’t be anything other than a love to their parents and siblings and our entire community. Our family has so many great memories of them from Cecil giving me a joyous cheer during my Bar Mitzvah to their constant presence throughout Sq Hill especially at the JCC to the great big hugs Cecil loved to give. They died doing something they loved and have done every week, practicing our blessed and ancient religion of Judaism. We and everyone who interacted with David and Cecil were lucky to have done so. A monster may have taken their bodies, but he did not steal our memories, our faith or our collective resolve. Our hearts ache for the entire Rosenthal family and all the families of those who were senselessly taken by that monster.

* As a child, I would sit in the congregation and look for the dedicated brothers that were always there to worship. I admired their dedication, though I didn’t share it. They were always there. It was such a huge part of their lives. My heart breaks that they were taken away. The last time I attended Tree of Life was 2 years ago. I brought my kids to Rosh Hashanah services. Before I could focus on the Rabbi, I needed to find the brothers. There they were. I told my kids about them, their love for worship, and the community. I will always think of them. I am so incredibly sorry for all of the families’ losses.

Both the Tribune-Review and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had articles about Cecil and David.

I also highly recommend checking out The Washington Post, Post-Gazette, and Buzzfeed who all have profiles and more about each of the 11 victims.

Let's also pray or share positive thoughts to those injured in the shooting, including several Pittsburgh police officers.

Finally, I attended a vigil on Sunday night at my Northern Virginia synagogue. One person in attendance wore a Troy Polamalu jersey. That just seems so Pittsburgh, and I will always love my home town!

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