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Tree Of Life Was Center Of 97-Year-Old Rose Mallinger’s ‘Very Active Life’

Courtesy of the Mallinger family
Rose Mallinger, 97, was the oldest of the 11 victims killed at Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018.

Friday brought the end of a wrenching series of funerals as the oldest victim, 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, was being laid to rest.

*This story was updated at 5:11 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2.

"We will reopen, but it will not be for quite a while," Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said Friday morning, as he prepared for the last funeral service. Myers himself survived the attack that began just as Shabbat services got underway. In the end, 11 people were gunned down in the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

Six more were injured, including Mallinger's daughter and four police officers.

The suspect, Robert Bowers, pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges that could result in a death sentence. Bowers, 46, was arraigned on a 44-count indictment charging him with murder, hate crimes, obstructing the practice of religion and other crimes.

It was his second brief appearance in a federal courtroom since authorities say he opened fire Saturday at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

"Yes!" Bowers said in a loud voice when asked if he understood the charges.

Authorities say Bowers raged against Jews during and after the massacre. He remains jailed without bail.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said Friday that the two most seriously injured victims have been moved out of the intensive care unit. Hospital officials said a 70-year-old man was upgraded from critical to stable condition, while a 40-year-old police officer remains in stable condition.

The officer was previously identified as Timothy Matson, who suffered multiple gunshot wounds. The wounded congregant is Daniel Leger, a nurse and hospital chaplain.

A 61-year-old woman also remains hospitalized in stable condition.

The city's Jewish community began burying its dead Tuesday as thousands of mourners attended services for a beloved family doctor and two brothers. The funerals have continued each day since.

Mallinger, whose funeral was Friday, had attended Tree of Life for more than 60 years.

It was the "center of her very active life," her family said in a statement distributed by University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "Her involvement with the synagogue went beyond the Jewish religion. ... It was her place to be social, to be active and to meet family and friends."

Though advanced in years, Mallinger always stood during services. She faithfully attended, accompanied by her whole family on major holidays.

"She retained her sharp wit, humor and intelligence until the very last day," the family statement said. "She did everything she wanted to do in her life."

Sandy Wasserman Fischman remembers Mallinger for her willingness to help. 

"Rose was always there and shared in whatever there was to be done," Fischman said. Friends added that Mallinger would be remembered for her strength and fierce devotion to her family. Ronda Wasserman Fisch said her son is close friends with Mallinger’s grandson, and they all grew up at Tree of Life. 

"My whole life Rose was always there," Fisch said. "My mother’s younger than Rose, but Tree of Life sisterhood — just always being a part of the synagogue — was something she lived for and, sadly, died for."
WESA's Virginia Alvino Young contributed to this report.