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Cecil And David Rosenthal, ‘The Boys,’ Remembered As Fixtures Of Pittsburgh’s Jewish Community

Matt Rourke
Mourners gathered outside Rodef Shalom Congregation before the funeral services for brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, in Pittsburgh.

Hundreds of mourners dressed mostly in black ringed the perimeter of Pittsburgh's city's oldest and largest synagogue, Rodef Shalom, to pay respect for two brothers with intellectually disabilities who were killed in Saturday's shooting.

*This story was updated at 2:14 p.m. Tuesday.

Those saying goodbye quickly filled the inside of the vaulted synagogue, which is lined with stained glass walls and gold trim. 

Many people at the service were Jewish, and many were not. Those who spoke about Cecil and David Rosenthal, both in their 50s, all expressed the same affection, though. One man, describing their place in the community, referred to the pair fondly as "the boys."

The attack on Saturday killed some of the Tree of Life synagogue's most dedicated members. The oldest victim was 97-year-old Rose Mallinger. At 54, David Rosenthal was the youngest.

He and Cecil, 59, lived at a building run by Achieva, a disability-services organization that had worked with the brothers for years. David had worked with Achieva's cleaning service and at Goodwill Industries, and Cecil was hoping to start a job soon at a workplace-services company, Achieva spokeswoman Lisa Razza told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

David was quieter than Cecil, who had a sociable personality that earned him a reputation as "the honorary mayor of Squirrel Hill," a historic Jewish enclave in Pittsburgh.

"They were lovely souls, and they lived for the congregation" at Tree of Life, said Brian Schreiber, a member who is also president of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh.

Among the faces at the service Tuesday was Dan Frankel, a Democratic state representative who lives in Squirrel Hill. He's Jewish and said he's been to a lot of weddings and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs at Tree of Life over the years. 

Kate Lederman grew up in the Tree of Life synagogue and celebrated all of her milestones there. She recently gave birth.

"I was named there, bat mitzvahed there, married there. And my whole life was in that synagogue. Same with my father. And we knew Cecil and David. We knew all of them. This should be a week of pure joy having a baby, but it's a week of terror," she said. "We were supposed to have our baby naming there, but we're going to do it at home."

Many others at the funeral exchanged somber greetings, some even saying, "saw you on the TV the other day." 

Also paying his respects was Dr. Abe Friedman, who typically sat in the back row of Tree of Life with the Rosenthal brothers but was late to the service on Saturday and was not there when the gunman opened fire. As he stood in line at the funeral with his wife, he wondered why he had been spared.

"Why did things fall into place for me?" he asked. "I usually sit in the back row. In the last row, everyone got killed."

Services for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz were also held earlier Tuesday. A funeral was also set Tuesday for Daniel Stein, a man seen as part of the core of his congregation.

All but one of the other funerals are scheduled through the rest of the week, ending on Friday.

Gunman Robert Bowers is due back in federal court for a hearing Thursday.

The Associated Press and 90.5 WESA's Sarah Kovash contributed to this story.