Family members of victims continue to testify in synagogue shooting trial
10/27 TrialSentencing phase

Family members of victims continue to testify in synagogue shooting trial

Victims remembered as kind, generous community members

Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz (Courtesy photo)
Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz (Courtesy photo)

When Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz found that his necktie got in the way while examining patients at his family practice, he switched to a bow tie. The look became his trademark, and epitomized his upbeat, welcoming nature.

“He was so happy to be a doctor and have his patients,” Daniel Kramer, Rabinowitz’s brother-in-law, said. “I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t smiling.”

Kramer was one of multiple close relatives and family members of victims who testified Tuesday at the trial of the man who shot and killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue building in 2018.

Tuesday was the second day of the trial’s third phase, in which the jury will decide whether to sentence the defendant to death.

Rabinowitz, who was 66 when he died, operated a family practice in Shadyside and took great joy in caring for people in all stages of life, Kramer said. When his elderly patients struggled with mobility, he would make house calls and stick around longer to talk to those who were lonely.

In the 1980s, in the midst of the AIDS crisis, he was a go-to doctor for patients who had contracted the disease. The ailment was mysterious at the time and many doctors turned people away, but Rabinowitz welcomed them, Kramer said — hugging them at the end of their visits.

To the many nieces and nephews of the family, he was Uncle Jerry, a playful and always present member of the family. He “adored” his wife, Miri, and enjoyed many activities with her, including vacations and riding around Downtown Pittsburgh on a Segway standing scooter. The government showed a picture of Jerry and Miri standing on their Segways. Kramer noted Jerry’s bright smile.

Sylvan and Bernice Simon (Photo courtesy of the Simon family)
Michael Simon and Michelle Weis, who are siblings, testified about their parents, Bernice and Sylvan Simon. Bernice and Sylvan got married in 1956 in the Pervin Chapel at Tree of Life — the same place where they were murdered — and raised their kids in the synagogue. Bernice was 84 and Sylvan was 86 when they were killed.

Weis said that without the connective tissue provided by their parents, the family has not spent holidays together the way they had in the past.

“I lost my best friend, my confidante,” Weis said.

Joyce Fienberg (Photo courtesy of Marnie Fienberg)
Joyce Fienberg (Photo courtesy of Marnie Fienberg)[/caption]Brothers Anthony and Howard Fienberg, whose mother, Joyce, was a victim of the shooting, felt a similar familial loss. Joyce, who was 75, was an educational researcher and a devoted grandmother. Her grandkids, Anthony said, were the center of her world.

Joyce would arrange family gatherings and do the logistical work to make sure everyone could make it. Getting updates about everyone in the extended family was easy, they said, because Joyce always knew what was going on. When the family got together, she would insist on taking the cooking and cleaning duties.

“She was the lynchpin on multiple sides of the family,” Howard said.

Judith Kaye testified in the afternoon about Irving Younger, who was 69 when he was killed on Oct. 27, 2018. Kaye, who was Younger’s girlfriend, praised Irv’s “warmth” and his “loving” nature.

Irving Younger (Courtesy photo)
Younger loved baseball, Kaye said, and was so revered as a baseball coach in Squirrel Hill that people would come up to him and tell him how grateful they were for his support. As he got older and his wife passed away after a long illness, he adopted two children and fostered several more.
“He was very giving and nurturing,” Kaye said.

The government showed pictures of Kaye and Younger spending time together. Younger, Kaye said, was a doting boyfriend.

“Whenever we were together, it was like a first date,” she said. “He was very romantic. He refused to let me pay for anything, and he got such pleasure from buying things for people.”

The final two witnesses were relatives of Rose Mallinger, who died at Tree of Life at the age of 97. Amy Mallinger, Rose’s granddaughter, told stories about Rose’s selfless and fun-loving personality, and her mental sharpness at her advanced age. Growing up, Amy would visit her grandmother (whom she called “Bubbe”) alongside her siblings and cousins. They would go to the park and play a card matching game on the floor.

Rose Mallinger (Photo courtesy of the Mallinger family)
After graduating from college, Amy stayed in Pittsburgh and visited her Bubbe often. They would sit on the porch and chat about whatever was happening around them, like the increasing number of black squirrels in the neighborhood. At family gatherings and celebrations, Rose would get out on the dance floor. Her favorite was the chicken dance, Amy said.

“She was funny, but she didn’t really know she was funny,” Amy said.

Earlier in the day, a historian from the University of Pittsburgh, Barbara Burstin, testified about the lengthy history of Jewish people in Pittsburgh. In particular, she noted the vibrant and deep-rooted Jewish community in Squirrel Hill. A devotion to Judaism tied the victims together.

Kramer noted that to console those in his family about the loss of Rabinowitz, he turns to familiar words in the Jewish faith.

“May his memory be a blessing.” PJC

Harrison Hamm writes for the Pittsburgh Union Progress. He can be reached at This story is part of ongoing coverage of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial by the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle and the Pittsburgh Union Progress in a collaboration supported by funding from the Pittsburgh Media Partnership.

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