CHICAGO (CBS) — Funerals begin today for victims of the shooting massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, including two men with ties to the Chicago area.
Cecil and David Rosenthal, who were developmentally disabled, were greeters at Tree of Life synagogue. Their sister, Diane Rosenthal Hirt, is a member of Congregation Etz Chaim in Lombard.
Condolences to Etz Chaim have been pouring in since Cecil and David were killed, along with nine others, when a gunman opened fire at Tree of Life on Saturday.
Deborah Friedman described Cecil as a “lovely, gentle fellow.”
“I’m retired now, but spent much of my life devoted to including people with disabilities in the life of the community, and had a lot of admiration and respect for how he was treated by that congregation,” she said.
Many congregants at Etz Chaim met the brothers years ago at a bat mitvah, and described the brothers as sweet, caring men.
When the Rosenthal brothers traveled to Lombard for a bat mitzvah for their two nieces, the hard-working religious duo fretted a bit.
“I know, for them, that it was a major trip to come out here and give up their greeting at their own synagogue in Pittsburgh,” said Carol Meyer, executive director of Etz Chaim.
Their Pennsylvania house of worship was their second home, many have said. The Tree of Life synagogue was also the last spot the brothers were alive.
Etz Chaim members discovered their connection to the shooting massacre when fellow congregant Diane, the Rosenhals’ sister, called the rabbi.
“We’re one big family here, and family takes care of family. We celebrate the good times and get each other through the tough times, and that’s what we’re gonna do for Diane. We’re gonna get her through this very tough time,” Meyer said.
The Etz Chaim community observed a small service for all of the Pittsburgh victims on Sunday.
Now synagogue leaders are planning an interfaith service on Friday night, with at least 10 different clergy, to help the greater community heal in this confusing time.
“I just don’t understand why they were targeted, and why any of us are targeted. We’re just trying to be good people,” Meyer said.
The Rosenthals’ funeral has been scheduled for Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
Unfortunatley, Etz Haim is no stranger to hate crime. A few years ago, a man busted windows, wrote derogatory phrases on doors, and laid a hatchet outside the entrance.
Since then, particularly in the wake of the synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, security has been enhanced; though staff members wouldn’t reveal how.