At Last of Funerals for Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre Victims, Family and Friends Pay Tribute to ‘Bubbie’ Rose Mallinger
Mourners gathered in Pittsburgh on Friday for the funeral of the last and oldest of 11 victims gunned down in a massacre at a synagogue, capping a week of grieving for the city.
Rose Mallinger, 97 — affectionately known to her family as “Bubbie” — was among the worshipers killed last Saturday when a gunman burst into the Tree of Life synagogue with a semi-automatic rifle and three pistols, opening fire in the midst of Sabbath prayers as he shouted. “All Jews must die.”
Mallinger’s daughter was injured in the attack and remains hospitalized in stable condition.
Robert Bowers, 46, an avowed antisemite, pleaded not guilty on Thursday in federal court to all 44 counts against him in the attack.
A long line of mourners waited to pay their respects ahead of Mallinger’s funeral at the Rodef Shalom Temple, Pittsburgh’s oldest synagogue.
“She was a grandmother to all of us,” said Bruce Ive, who saw Mallinger regularly at Tree of Life. “We all called her Bubbie.”
Kevin McCafferty, a contractor who did home improvement projects for Mallinger, was among those in line.
“I was amazed at how alert and engaged she was for a lady of her age,” McCafferty said. “We would sit and talk for hours. She was such a lovely lady.”
In a statement issued earlier this week, Mallinger’s family said that for the nonagenarian, Tree of Life was the “center of her very active life.”
“Her involvement with the synagogue went beyond the Jewish religion,” the statement read. “It was her place to be social, to be active and to meet family and friends.”
Meanwhile, further details emerged on Friday of the role played by 911 emergency operators in assisting the fear-stricken callers from the synagogue as Bowers carried out the atrocity.
Interviewed by local broadcaster WTAE, 911 operator Bruce Carlton took the first call from inside Tree of Life Synagogue — from Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who courageously ushered several of his congregants to safety.
“Those initial words of 20-30 shots in the lobby, those were his words,” said Carlton.
Carlton said he knew the scene inside Tree of Life was dire, if only by the rabbi’s voice. Myers was hiding in the choir room above the sanctuary. Twenty seconds after Myers placed the call for help, officers were being dispatched, by Michael Steinmiller.
“Within moments of officers arriving on scene hearing the dreadful words, that an officer had been shot — officer down and not only did I hear that once that day, but I heard it four times,” Steinmiller told WTAE.
Inside Tree of Life, Barry Werber was hiding in a closest in the basement, when he called 911. The call taker who answered his call was Michele Kalinsky. She had only been on the job for five weeks.
“I just remember him saying that he’s scared,” Kalinsky told WTAE.
Kalinsky said she focused on getting Werber help. “I let him know that he wasn’t alone and that I would stay there for him,” she recalled.
She did, until she heard police officers with him.
“You just feel, ‘Wow he’s gonna be okay,'” said Kalinsky.