PITTSBURGH (CN) – A city in mourning for the 11 victims of Saturday’s mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh braced itself Tuesday for President Donald Trump’s arrival.
Trump, whose visit has been met with backlash by community leaders and politicians, said he plans to pay his respects to those killed in the attack, as well as the two congregants and four police officers who were injured in the ambush.
The first of several memorial services scheduled this week was held Tuesday morning for three victims of the massacre; brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and David Rosenthal, 54, both of Squirrel Hill, and Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who is among those who publicly opposed Trump’s visit, joined the mourners overflowing the aisles and balconies of Rodef Shalom Congregation for the Rosenthal brothers’ service.
Peduto said he will not meet with the president, citing concerns in a Monday press conference such as law enforcement being stretched thin by the funerals and continued security at Tree of Life and other Jewish institutions.
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said that in his year with Tree of Life, Cecil and David Rosenthal were always the first to greet him.
“If you could open a picture dictionary and look up the definition of beautiful souls, you would see pictures of Cecil and David,” Myers said.
The Rosenthals, known affectionately as “the boys,” to friends and family, were residents of Pittsburgh’s ACHIEVA group home for adults with intellectual disabilities, but they found a second home inside the Tree of Life synagogue, where they had attended every weekend service for the last 35 years.
“Had David not been handicapped, I think he would have been a movie star or a celebrity,” brother-in-law Michael mused during his heartfelt eulogy. “He maintained a fine balance between public and private life.”
“Cecil knew everyone in town. He knew everyone’s business,” Michael continued. “If you wanted local news gossip, Cecil was your source.”
He added, “Cecil absolutely loved to party and I can almost guarantee he is looking down upon us now asking, ‘Are you proud of me?’”
About a mile away from the service at Rodef Shalom, police stood watch over the barricaded streets surrounding Tree of Life. Flowers, signs, candles and notes to victims and their families adorned the sidewalk as mourners came and went.
Kelly Mroz, 36, of Homewood, was among those paying tribute to Dr. Rabinowitz, whom she remembered fondly from their time working together at UPMC Shadyside hospital.
“He would always say hello and smile and keep on going, always with a smile on his face,” Mroz said.
Mroz said she did not learn that Rabinowitz was among the Tree of Life shooting victims until she arrived at work on Monday, describing a very solemn and sad scene among the hospital community.