A call for O-TYPE blood donors was answered by dozens of Pittsburgh area residents on Saturday afternoon to help to save the critically injured Jewish worshippers and police officers after the attack at the Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha combined synagogue in the historically tight-knit Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

A man with a history of anti-Semitism and hundreds of racist, anti-Jewish postings on social media stands accused of attacking the synagogue with multiple firearms as a bris and Shacharit services began. As I write this, eleven worshippers are dead, and six others are critically wounded and being treated at UPMC (Medical Center).

Four of the wounded are police officers who responded to the attack. In the minutes after the attack, three experienced trauma doctors were dispatched and rushed to the synagogue to triage the wounded. An FBI agent said that the massacre scene was the worst he saw in over two decades.

After the charged assailant, Robert Bowers, was shot and captured by local Pittsburgh police officers, the FBI took charge of the case, as did U.S. federal prosecutors. The local D.A. sent his top deputies to the scene, as did the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Governor Wolf and PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and the federal DOJ.

On Saturday evening, they charged Bowers with 29 criminal counts, including 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder, weapons offenses and charges alleging Bowers seriously injured police officers while obstructing the exercise of religious beliefs.

A VIGIL – much of it silent – spontaneously occured in Pittsburgh on Saturday evening. Many who came were high school students, such as Cody Murphy, 17, one of the vigil organizers, who lives a block from the synagogue. Prayers were recited at the Sixth Presbyterian church in an interfaith service led by a minister, a rabbi, and an imam. Sophia Levin, 15, leveraged a network of Alderdice high school students to plan the evening vigil. Vigils were also held in U.S. other cities including Washington DC and Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square.

The charged assailant repeatedly railed against Jews and “HIAS” – the century old Hebrew Immigrant aid society which promoted an annual “refugee shabbat” last week for Parshat Lech Lecha (when Abraham and Sara(h) leave and move to Canaan and Egypt and Canaan).

Rabbi Alvin Berkun, rabbi emeritus of the synagogue, who is also a police chaplain and former Navy chaplain, said that after shooting the worshippers, Bowers barricaded himself in the rabbi’s study. The rabbi did not attend services this morning due to his wife’s illness. He and other leaders set up a counseling center at the area JCC for counseling.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Wuerl sent his diocese’s prayers to Rabbi Berkun; and Bishop David Zubik rushed to Squirrel Hill to visit Rabbi Aaron Bisno who was on lockdown at Congregation Rodef Shalom and to share his community’s prayers. Bishop Zubik instructed all priests in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania to include prayers for the Jewish worshippers and police in Saturday and Sunday masses. Bishop Zubik – contrary to President Trump – said it was not an issue of additional security at Houses of Worship but was about confronting hate.

Father James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ), tweeted “All Catholics should stand with their “elder brothers and sisters in faith,” the Jewish people, especially in their time of profound grief and mourning, and pledge ourselves to combat the sin of anti-Semitism and the violence and death that this hatred leads to. #Pittsburgh”

In the morning, as President Donald J. Trump was headed to Indianapolis for a speech, he suggested that houses of worship needed more armed guards and states needed more quick death penalties. In Indianapolis at 3:15 PM, speaking to a convention of Future Farmers of America, POTUS Trump gave a more tempered speech and called on America to have no tolerance for hatred, prejudice, or anti-Semitism, and to unify against all forms of evil, and to come together as one American people; and promote love, dignity, and respect.

En route to Indiana, the homestate of Vice President and former Indiana Governor Pence, President Trump’s staff was tasked with finding a rabbi to speak at the Indianapolis rally. They found Rabbi Benjamin Sendrow of Congreagation Shaarey Tefilah of suburban Carmel. His conservative synagogue of 200 families was vandalized this past Summer with Nazi symbols. In his invocation speech/prayer, the rabbi asked god for healing, strength and comfort and moral clarity, but also praised President Trump, saying, “May we continue under the leadership of our president who works tirelessly to fight evil at home and around the world…May we join him in that fight”

(Really, rabbi?????? your invocation was tone deaf to me.)


Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs @naftalibennett, who skipped the JFNA General Assembly of North American Jewish leaders in Tel Aviv earlier this week, is en route to Pittsburgh to share his support with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh.

David Shribman, the executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and resident of Squirrel Hill captured the sadness and outrage of Pittburgh best HERE

Bari Weiss, writing an OP ED for The Sunday New York Times wrote “On a Saturday morning in March of 1997 I became a bat mitzvah at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill. I wasn’t supposed to be there. The previous October a fire had blazed through my family’s regular synagogue, Beth Shalom, less than a mile away. Anyone who is from Squirrel Hill, or has ever spent time in the place where I was lucky to be raised, will not be surprised to know how the community responded to this disaster. Jews and gentiles alike ran toward the fire. As Beth Shalom’s executive director told a reporter at the time: “I didn’t have to look — everyone came to me.” The line put me in mind of my favorite of Fred Rogers’ sayings. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Manhattan’s CBST synagogue wrote, “Heartbroken. Angry. Sadly not surprised. This act of anti-Jewish violence is a despicable act for all decent human beings. Some are saying that Jews will now be afraid of going to synagogue — NO! Our strongest reaction must be to be MORE Jewish, to not let the anti-Semites of the world have that power. This is another example of the devastation of the sick gun culture of this country in a country which has a President who unleashes hatred against Jews, Muslims, people of color, Immigrants, refugees, LGBT and others. I am reaching out to all of those who are forces of light and love in the world to continue joining together I am reciting my psalm today — I fully believe that the forces of good and love will overcome, let us all join together and make the midterm elections represent our vision for the future. Let us never give in to despair or hate. In a place where no one acts as a human being should, we must strive even harder to be decent human beings. Be the reason other people believe in the goodness of people. May the wounded experience a full recovery and may the souls of those killed today be at peace. May we all have the strength to keep spreading love and light.”

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Rabbinical Council of America expressed their deepest sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives in the horrific murders that took place during Shabbat services at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. They wrote, “We pray for the speedy recovery of those injured in the shooting, including the brave police officers who rushed directly into the active crime scene. This senseless act of anti-Semitic violence was not only an egregious attack on the Jewish community, but an attack on the very foundations of civil society and our collective democratic values” Moishe Bane, president of the O-U, wrote, “Our hearts break for the senseless murder of our fellow Jews and all victims of vicious hate crimes. We condemn the dangerous rhetoric that foments such senseless violence and we stand with the Tree of Life Congregation and the whole Pittsburgh community at this terrible time.” Rabbi Elazar Mushkin, president of the RCA wrote, “We live in contentious times, when fringe elements of society have become emboldened by speech which is often disrespectful and hateful. As a nation, committed to the freedom and rights of all, we must commit to reach out not only to those who are like us – but especially as our sacred Torah has taught us – to those with whom we disagree.” Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice president of the RCA added, “One of the greatest privileges of those who are fortunate to be citizens of the United States is the freedom to worship as we believe and to live in safety and security. We need to come together as a nation to protect these precious gifts for all members of all faiths.”

Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch of Manhattan’s Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, who returened from a meeting last week with Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu, wrote to his congregation that “We are shocked and deeply saddened by the shooting Shabbat morning at Congregation Etz Chaim in Pittsburgh. We grieve with the families of the deceased and pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded. We express our appreciation to the law enforcement and security forces who acted heroically to prevent an even greater tragedy. We are deeply concerned about increasing polarization and disunity in our country, and worry about an intensifying atmosphere of intolerance. While we wait for more details about the Pittsburgh shooting, we note that anti-Semitic hate crimes have surged in the United States. We know from past tragedies that violent rhetoric leads to violent action. We call on Americans to repudiate intolerant words; they lead to intolerant deeds. We call on political leaders to work to unite Americans. We are dismayed that the massacre occurred on Shabbat, a day of contemplation, prayer, and peace. We are appalled that the horrific anti-Semitic attack occurred during a bris, the celebration of new life. We will not succumb to fear, violence or intimidation…. Tomorrow, Sunday, October 28, our synagogue is planning a Kristallnacht concert, commemorating the night of broken glass in 1938, when violent words led to acts of extreme violence against Jews, synagogues and Jewish businesses that culminated in genocide. At the concert, we will renew our pledge never to forget and never to tolerate anti-Semitism in any form. During the concert, we will pause to recite the traditional mourner’s prayer in memory of those killed today as well as for those devoured by the Nazi beast. We urge you to attend to express your solidarity with the Jews of the past and the present. We pray for the day when brothers and sisters shall dwell in peace and none shall be afraid.”

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum strongly condemned the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and sent its deepest sympathies to the victims and families of those who were callously murdered. They wrote that, “Before opening fire, the alleged perpetrator reportedly yelled, “All Jews must die!” The Museum reminds all Americans of the dangers of unchecked hatred and antisemitism which must be confronted wherever they appear and calls on all Americans to actively work to promote social solidarity and respect the dignity of all individuals.”

HIAS, in response to the tragedy in Pittsburgh wrote, “There are no words to express how devastated we are by the events in Pittsburgh this morning. This loss is our loss, and our thoughts are with Tree of Life Congregation, our local partner Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) of Pittsburgh, the city of Pittsburgh and all those affected by this senseless act of violence. As we try to process this horrifying tragedy, we pray that the American Jewish community and the country can find healing. As one of the nine national refugee resettlement agencies, HIAS partners with the United States government to resettle refugees as part of the U.S. refugee admissions program. Founded in 1881 as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, HIAS stands for a world in which refugees find welcome, safety, and freedom. Guided by Jewish values and history, HIAS rescues people whose lives are in danger for being who they are. In solidarity, All of us at HIAS”

JTS (Jewish Theological Seminary) wrote: The JTS community is devastated by today’s horrific events in Pittsburgh. The residents of Squirrel Hill are an extension of our family, with JTS alumni leading the Tree of Life Or L’Simcha Congregation as well as the larger Pittsburgh Jewish community. We grieve with them, and our hearts are broken for the families and friends of the 11 innocent people who were gunned down inside their synagogue as they celebrated Shabbat. We are grateful for the bravery of the first responders who risked their lives to save others and prevent even more loss of life. We implore our political representatives to address the spiraling violence that is turning formerly safe places—our schools, our churches, and today, one of our synagogues—into scenes of unspeakable carnage. We implore all Americans to cease the divisive rhetoric that has come to characterize our political discourse and which gives succor to those who hate. We ask them to replace that rhetoric with the language of respectful disagreement and shared values. We must come together as a nation to find healing and common ground. Thoughts and prayers are not enough to prevent even more innocent Americans from dying at the hands of people who hate those who differ from themselves.

Jane Eisner, the editor in chief of Forward.com, wrote that we are a nation with a president who stokes anger against immigrants, minorities, and anyone who disagrees with him at any moment — and then, when violence and death stain the landscape, blames the victims for not protecting themselves enough, as if that were the reason for the bloodshed. SHe wrote that elements of the Jewish community who support the president with money, votes, political expertise and moral cover are complicit. She wrote, “Because if you excuse the radical divisiveness spawned by this man, you are part of the problem. If you ignore his hateful tweets because you like his policies on Israel, you are part of the problem. If you silently cheer at the fascist-like rallies before only adoring audiences because you’ve got a few more dollars in your pocket, you are part of the problem. If you want an America where every school, church, synagogue and mosque looks like a National Rifle Association convention, then you are part of the problem.”

Alexandra Schwartz, a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, wrote, “The violence that took place this Shabbat morning at the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh is the fear of every synagogue, Hillel, day school, and Jewish community center in this country. It is the ancient Jewish expectation of persecution—when, where, has it not been with us?—married to American reality: a country saturated with guns and habituated to quotidian massacre, plagued by age-old racism and bigotry, which have lately been expertly inflamed by the holder of the highest office in the land…. There has long been a casual assumption that homegrown anti-Semitism could not happen here, that “The Plot Against America” would remain the fantastical counter-factual that Philip Roth intended it to be. And yet, the warning signs have become increasingly clear. Since the 2016 Presidential campaign, anti-Semitic vitriol has exploded on the Internet. Neo-Nazis tweet swastikas and Hitler-era propaganda of leering, hook-nosed rabbis. Holocaust deniers discuss “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in plain view. Jewish journalists and other public figures have had their profile pictures Photoshopped onto images of lampshades and bars of soap. The name “George Soros” is no longer invoked as a dog whistle, but as an ambulance siren. “The Jewish question” is debated on alt-right blogs and news sites. In the run-up to the election, anti-Semites began to put Jewish names in sets of triple parentheses—a yellow star for the digital age, by which to un-assimilate the assimilated….”

Rabbis Jeremy Kalmanofsky and Yael Hammerman, and Cantor Natasha Hirschhorn of Manhattan’s Ansche Chesed congregation organized a vigil in NYC for Sunday at 630 PM, featuring the leaders of Upper West Side congregations, including Habonim, Bnai Jeshurun, SAJ, and Romemu) and the local JCC. When Paster Morehouse (Trinity) was en route to the vigil, and the cab driver found out he was headed to the vigil, the cabdriver drove him for free.


At 3 PM on Sunday, the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh will hold a special vigil at the Soldiers and Sailors location.

Sunday at 2PM #Boston holds a community-wide vigil for #TreeOfLife #Pittsburgh on Boston Common at Parkman Bandstand. https://www.facebook.com/events/275811416410227/ Hosted by @BostonJCRC @ADL_NewEngland @CJPBoston Syn. Council of MA

Ann Arbor — Beth Israel and Beth Emeth are jointly holding a vigil tonight, Sunday evening, October 28, at 6:30 p.m. at Temple Beth Emeth, 2309 Packard, Ann Arbor.
All are welcome to join in the vigil.

Madison vigil for grief and interfaith solidarity, mourning the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive (Atrium Auditorium), 7 pm, Sunday, 10/28.

Houston Jewish community to honor victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack. A candlelight vigil will be held at 7:15 p.m. Sunday, October 28, 2018 at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, 5601 S. Braeswood. The vigil is open to the public. #khou11 #HTownRush

the GNO Jewish community tonight at Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation for a Vigil for Tree of Life (Etz Chayim). May the memories of all who lost their lives in this horrific act be for a blessing.
Sunday, October 28, 2018
5:00 pm

Hadi Jawad writes; “We are all Jews”. #Dallas Candlelight Vigil, Sunday 6:30 PM at Kennedy Memorial Downtown.

Today, Sunday, October 28th, at 4:00 p.m., a Metro-wide Vigil will be held at Congregation Beth Israel (1972 NW Flanders St, Portland, OR 97209).


Among those murdered on Saturday are:

DAN STEIN, 71, of the Squirrel Hill nieghborhood of Pittsburgh. Recently a grandfather, Mr. Stein was a past President of the nearly 120 year old NEW LIGHT (Ohar Chadosh) Congregation, a Conservative temple in Pittsburgh. He also sometimes led services, and was the current president of the Men’s Club. His wife Sharyn leads the Sisterhood, and is vice chair of her local Hadassah. The New Light congregation holds services at Tree of Life. Stein was also active in keeping the legacy of old area synagogues alive. He is survived by his wife Sharyn; Joseph (Jeannina) and Leigh Stein; and grandchild Henri Federico Stein; his sister Ruth Halle, Dan was the child of the late Bernard and Yetta Stein; brother-in-law of Faye and the late Joseph Konigsberg; and he leaves many, many loving family and friends. Funeral services will be private. Memorial contributions may be made to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation or the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry.

JOYCE FIENBERG, 75. (Oakland neighborhood). Her husband Professor Stephen Fienberg passsed away in 2016. Both were active lay leaders in the Jewish community, and both hailed from Toronto, Ontario. She retired exactly a decade ago from the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center. She is survived by sons Anthony (Magali) Fienberg of Paris, and Howard Fienberg (a former aide on Capitol Hill, and current Advocate) of Vienna, Va., and several grandchildren (Tiffany, Selena, Victoria, Juliana, Adam and Sophie). Howard’s spouse, Marney Fienberg, is a leader of Hadassah of Northern Virginia. Funeral services at Beth Shalom Congregation, 5915 Beacon Street, Squirrel Hill on Wednesday, October 31st at 10 a.m. Contributions may be made to Tree of Life/ Or L’Simcha Congregation, 5898 Wilkins Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15217 or Family House, 5245 Centre Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15232.

RICHARD GOTTFRIED, DMD, 65 (Ross Township neighborhood), a Pittsburgh area dentist. He practiced at Gottfried and Durachko with his wife, Dr. Peg. A graduate of Pitt, he and his wife were members of the Discovery Study Club, and volunteered as a dentist for poorer residents in need of care. He was the dentist to see if you were underinsured and uninsured; he embraced the underserved and refugees in need. A runner, he completed 28 city of Pittsburgh Great Races. A member of Or Hadash/New Light Congregation and a past president, he was the current chairperson of the religious committee. Richard was the heartbeat of the congregation. Funeral Services in Shadyside, on Thursday, at 4 p.m. Contributions may be made to New Light Congregation, 5898 Wilkins Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15217.

ROSE MALLINGER, 97 (Squirrel Hill). She was the widow of Morris Mallinger, mother of of Stanley Mallinger, Alan Mallinger, and Andrea Wedner (who was wounded in the attack and remains hospitalized), grandmother to several grandchildren, and beloved aunt of many nieces & nephews. She was employed as a school secretary. Some media sites reported that she was a survivor of the Holocaust. This is not correct.

JERRY RABINOWITZ, MD 66 (Edgewood), a geriatrician and primary care physician, affiliated with UPMC Shadyside. He received his medical degree from Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He was fond of calling people “young man”, even those older than he. He was the epitome of a caring, dedicated healer. He treated patients suffering from HIV and AIDS at a time when these afflicted patients were shunned. Among those suffering from HIV before there was an effective AZT treatment, Dr. Rabinowitz was known as the angel-physician to go to if you wanted to continue living. Famous for his hugging and his prowess with a shofar, he was a leader of Dor Hadash, the Reconstractionist minyan that met in the synagogue. Jerry is the son of Sally and the late Charlie Rabinowitz; he is survived by his wife of 21 wonderful years Miri Rabinowitz. He is the son-in-law of Dr. Milton and Fradie Kramer. Also surviving are his brother and sister-in-law, Bill and Chris Rabinowitz; nephews and nieces, Elliot Rabinowitz and his husband Jason McGraw, Jacob Rabinowitz and his wife Megan Larson, Joshua Kramer, Ilona Kramer, Hannah Kramer, Max Kramer, Avishai Ostrin, Yael Ostrin and Nadav Ostrin. Funeral service are Tuesday, October 30th, at 11 a.m. at the JCC. Donations can be made in his memory to Dor Hadash, 5898 Wilkins Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15217.

CECIL ROSENTHAL, 59, and his brother DAVID ROSENTHAL, 54 (both of Squirrel Hill). Both were special needs adults.
Cecil Rosenthal used to greet people at the door before services. They were well known to the community, and the honorary chairs for events for those with learning issues. They are survived by their siblings and parents. Both men worked with ACHIEVA, a group that helps people with disabilities. ACHIEVA wrote, “Cecil and David had a love for life and for those around them. As long-standing recipients of ACHIEVA’s residential and employment services, they were as much a part of the ACHIEVA family as they were their beloved neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. They loved life. They loved their community. They spent a lot of time at the Tree of Life, never missing a Saturday.” The brothers were “inseparable.” Cecil’s laugh were recalled as infectious. David was so kind and had such a gentle spirit. Together, they looked out for one another. Cecil was active with the Pittsburgh chapter of Best Buddies, an organization that provides friendship and inclusion for people with disabilities.

SYLVAN SIMON, 86 (Wilkinsburg). The couple was married at the Etz Chaim Tree of Life congregation over 60 years ago, in 1956. Bernice was a retired nurse; Sylvan worked as an accountant. Survived by daughter Michelle Simon Weis, sons Marc A. (Machi) Simon, Michael (Robin) Simon and the late Martin E. Simon; sister Betty Nathan Shulman, the late Meyer Rothenberg, Sarah Klein, Abe Rothenberg. The couple were “Zaydie” and “Bobie” to Joshua, Lauren, Marissa, Tyler, Malone and McKenzie. Funeral services in Shadyside on Thursday, November 1, at 12 Noon.

MELVIN WAX, 88 (Squirrel Hill). Melvin lost his wife Sandra two years ago. He is survived by daughter Jodi (Todd) Kart, grandson Matthew Ryan Kart, many nieces, nephews & cousins, and sister in law Bonnie Wax. He was often referred to as the pillar of the Or Hadash congregation. Going to shul was like breakfast for him, a regular part of life. Melvin worked for Calig Steel Drum for over 20 years. His greatest passions were his grandson, his Judaism, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Services at Shadyside on Wednesday, October 31, 2018, at 1:00 p.m.

IRVING YOUNGER, 69 (Mt. Washington), I believe he was in the Real Estate industry and coached a neighborhood baseball team. Passionate about his faith and his family. A widower after the loss of his wife Sherry, he is survived by his children Jordanna Younger and Jared Younger. Quiet and unassuming. Never had an unkind word. Irving was a caring and loving man, with the biggest and warmest heart imaginable. Anybody who ever had the pleasure to meet him knew this. Throughout his life, he always found time to spend with friends and family. He was a charismatic and outgoing man who loved to listen and cared so deeply about what was going on in other people’s lives. He could constantly be found chatting with people, peppering those conversations with jokes and frequent bursts of laughter. After both his children moved to Southern California about a decade ago, he made regular trips to California that picked up in regularity after the birth of his grandson, Jaden Buss, who is nearly 3. He was a highly devout man whose life and character were guided by Judaism. he family prays for a future where respectful engagement and action replaces Hate and Violence.
Services at Rodef Shalom Temple on Wednesday, October 31, 2018 at 1:00. Contributions may be made to Tree of Life Or L’Simcha Congregation, 5898 Wilkins Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15217 or to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, 5738 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15217.

Among those injured are
DANIEL LEGER, 70, a nurse and Jewish chaplain at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He was leading services at Or Hadash/New Light. He suffered critical gunshot wounds to his chest. His brother Paul is Chairman of Pittsburgh’s water and sewage utility. Paul said, “Permission has been given to do this kind of [violent] stuff from the highest level in the country, and we’re seeing the results of that,” (referring to President Donald Trump). He added, “I think we all need to come together to stop this kind of stuff everywhere. Everyone needs to be an American. We all need to join hands, stand up and stop it.”


There is a GoFundMe page for the synagogue set up by a Perisan student at John Hopkins SAIS, who, according to his website, worked for AIPAC. There are other pages created to raise funds, including one by a charitable Muslim group. If you ask me, play it safe and donate directly to the congregation or to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh



The CEO of GAB, the “free speech” platform that was used by the assailant to post hundreds of his “gabs” about Jews/Kikes was defiant against critics on Sunday. His GAB site was filled with anti Jewish and pro-assailant hashtags on Sunday

About the author



  • ASHLEY MURRAY for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Excerpts on what happened

    On Saturday morning in the basement of the Tree of Life synagogue, six members of the New Light Congregation were preparing for the day.

    Daniel Stein and Richard Gottfried stood in the kitchen while four others, including Barry Werber and Melvin Wax, mingled in the sanctuary area.

    Mr. Werber, a close friend of Mr. Gottfried and Mr. Stein, said he doesn’t know exactly what the two were discussing in the kitchen, but can make a pretty good guess that they were checking the refrigerator and planning for the congregation’s Men’s Club breakfast on Sunday.

    The others hadn’t arrived yet.

    “Mr. Wax was starting to lead the service,” Mr. Werber, 76, said by phone Monday. “That’s when the problem started with the shooting. I’m just grateful we didn’t have more members there. We probably had a number of people on the way, but they hadn’t arrived yet.”

    Rabbi Jonathan Perlman came and pushed Mr. Weber, Mr. Wax and a congregant named Carol Black into a large supply closet, he said.

    “Once the shooting started, we just wanted to stay alive,” Mr. Werber said.

    He called 911.

    “I always wear a cell phone on me,” he said — a little one that he called a “museum piece.”

    “I got 911 on the phone as the shooting started, and I tried to describe what was going on. They were as calming as anything I could think of. The scary part of course was trying to stay alive.”

    He told the Associated Press that he’s thankful his phone is older and didn’t light up when he was on the line with emergency dispatchers.

    “We’d only been in that building [Tree of Life synagogue] a little more than a year, so we weren’t familiar with the room. I don’t know where the light switch was, and I’m glad I didn’t. If we knew where the light switch was, we’d probably be numbers 12 and 13.”

    When the shots subsided, he said, Mr. Wax opened the door, only to be shot and fall back inside.

    “There were three shots, and he falls back into the room where we were,” he said. “The gunman walks in.”

    Apparently unable to see Mr. Werber and the other congregants in the darkness, the suspect walked back out.

    “Let me be very honest, I was frightened, I was scared, I have a wife at home ill, and I have a son living in Squirrel Hill, and I didn’t want to leave them.”

    Mr. Wax, 88, and Mr. Stein, 71, both of Squirrel, and Mr. Gottfried, 65, of Ross, were among the 11 victims in Saturday’s mass shooting at the Squirrel Hill synagogue.

    Mr. Werber and two others in his congregation made it out. A SWAT officer located them in the closet and escorted them up a set of steps and out of the building.

    For more, please visit


  • Mordechai Aderet, a man in New jersey who is employed as a rabbi for an Orthodox minyan, advised his followers not to attend a vigil for the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre. Why? Because the Jewish worshippers were murdered which a bris was bring held in the bulding for twin boy that were adopted by a gay parents, and that some worshippers drove cars to the synagogue.

    He also advised his followers not to attend a local New Jersey memorial vigil because the local synagogue hosting the event had held a memorial in the past for people murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Florida. He referred to the men who were murdered as “lowlives” and “sinners.” Aderet’s videos are hosted by TorahAnytime.com