Updated 5:02 p.m.
Eleven burials in four days.
Today, 97-year-old Rose Mallinger — the eldest of the 11 people slain inside the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill — was laid to rest.
Rev. Eric Manning of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston, S.C., where nine people were fatally shot during a prayer service in 2015, spoke at her funeral service.
“It gave us all a sense that we are Charleston and Charleston is us. We are all united by these tragedies,” said Nancy Rackoff of Fox Chapel, who attended Mallinger’s funeral and heard Manning speak. “We all have to stand together because if [tragedy] isn’t here it’s somewhere else.”
Her husband, Bill Rackoff, said Manning’s message was, “We are all in grief here today together and that they are sending all their love and warmth from Charleston and saying, ‘We are Pittsburgh and we are here to support you and do anything we can.'” (Media were asked to remain outside the visitation and service.)
Mallinger was remembered in recent days as a loving mother and “Bubbie,” an effervescent and charismatic nonagenarian. An 11 a.m. visitation and 1 p.m. funeral were held at Rodef Shalom Temple in Oakland, the scene of services for other victims earlier in the week. Gov. Tom Wolf and Mayor Bill Peduto were among those in attendance.
“She retained her sharp wit, humor and intelligence until the very last day,” Mallinger’s family said in a statement. “No matter what obstacles she faced, she never complained. She did everything she wanted to do in her life.”
Family said that life revolved around the synagogue where Mallinger was killed Saturday by a man with a cache of firearms and, police say, a searing hatred of Jews. It’s being called the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history. Robert Bowers has pleaded not guilty in the shootings that also left six people injured, including Mallinger’s 61-year-old daughter, Andrea Wedner. UPMC Presbyterian listed Wedner in stable condition today.
The Rackoffs said the funeral included discussion of Mallinger’s role at Tree of Life services on Saturday as the reader of the Prayer for Peace.
“It’s inconceivable the person who led the [Prayer for Peace] got struck down like that,” Bill Rackoff said, adding that “they made the point that Rose was exercising her habit of prayer as she did every Saturday and that she was struck down in prayer, and they made the point that she is now a martyr …”
Elizabeth Murphy of Sewickley emerged from the morning’s visitation with lines of mascara running down her face. Wedner is her dental hygienist, she explained.
“Senseless killings are always with you. There’s closure, I hope, for families, but until there’s no more hate there’s never really closure,” Murphy said.
“So many people who are not Jewish have come forward and asked me recently, ‘Why do so many people hate the Jews?’ And it’s a discussion my entire life that I’ve never understood,” she said.
A line forms outside the funeral of 97-year-old Rose Mallinger at Rodef Shalom Temple in Oakland.Colin Deppen / The Incline
The line for Mallinger’s visitation stretched more than a city block. It continued to grow on this blustery and gray morning before hundreds in line were turned away and told it was unlikely they’d make it in before the funeral service began.
Michele Organist of Point Breeze was one of them. She knew Rose and her family through the JCC.
“It’s surreal to be here, because you never think of losing someone who’s 97 years old to gun violence. I’ve known Rose a long time, and it was always going to be that she was so vibrant and bright and sharp-witted that she would live past 100. You knew something was going to take her eventually, but it wasn’t going to be gun violence,” Organist said.
She found out Mallinger was one of the victims a day after the shooting.
“My gut reaction? I just broke down and cried because I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it was someone I knew, ” Organist said.
While Mallinger’s funeral is the last of the week, it by no means articulates the end of grieving here.
Tomorrow marks one week since the shooting, and Jewish leaders have asked mourners to attend Sabbath services starting tonight in a show of solidarity and support.
“I don’t fear for our safety. I think we need to be present to continue life as normal, and I feel like the City of Pittsburgh is on high alert anyway,” Murphy said.
The police presence in the East End remains immense near vigils continuing to grow at and around the Wilkins Avenue synagogue, an active crime scene.
Condolences continue to pour in from around the world for a city struggling to regain a sense of normalcy.
“I don’t think there is a sense of closure. I think [the grief] is only just beginning,” Organist said tearfully.
“I’m sorry for crying,” she added before walking away.