A 75-year-old woman who was originally from Toronto is among the victims of the horrifying mass shooting at a Pittsburgh area synagogue Saturday.
Joyce Fienberg, one of the 11 people murdered in the attack, “grew up at Holy Blossom Temple,” a synagogue on Bathurst St., according to a Facebook post by Rabbi Yael Splansky.
“She was married here. Her Confirmation photo is on our wall of honour,” reads a further post on the synagogue’s Facebook page.
Fienberg and 10 others lost their lives after a gunman burst into the Tree of Life synagogue Saturday morning, wielding an AR-15-style assault rifle, two handguns, and yelling anti-Semitic slurs. He opened fire on the crowd of worshippers, and then upon the police officers and SWAT team who responded to the scene, before he eventually surrendered and was taken into custody.
The attack on the synagogue is being described as one of the deadliest against the Jewish community in the United States.
Fienberg’s brother in Toronto, Robert Libman, only confirmed late Saturday evening his sister was among the victim and was headed to Pittsburgh Sunday with his wife and family. He declined media inteviews through Rabbi Daniel Korobkin at the Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation in Thornhill, where he is a member.
“We are all heartbroken. We sat down together on Saturday. It was very difficult,” Korobkin told the Star in an interview, adding that Libman will be sitting for shiva — seven days of mourning — for Feinberg right after her burial in Pittsburgh.
Korobkin said he knew Fienberg through her brother because she visited him in Toronto regularly and would join him for services at the synagogue.
“She was such a fine and kind person, a gentle soul like her brother,” said Korobkin. “Every Jew around the world is feeling the pain of the tragedy. The fact that it’s connected with one of our members makes the tragedy that much closer to home.”
Fienberg was a widow; her husband Stephen E. Fienberg received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and statistics from the University of Toronto before doing his master’s and doctorate at Harvard, according to an obituary on Carnegie Mellon University’s website, where he was a professor. He taught statistics and social science at Carnegie in Pittsburgh before he died in 2016 at the age of 74.
In her husband’s 2016 obituary, it said that Fienberg has two sons, Anthony and Howard, as well as six grandchildren. Her husband’s funeral service was held at Tree of Life, the same place Fienberg would lose her life two years later.
“We hope the violence will come to an end and all communities will come together in peace and overcome all the hatred in our society,” noted Korobkin.
Pittsburgh Police have identified the suspect of the shooting as 46-year-old Robert D. Bowers. He is now facing 29 criminal counts, including obstructing free exercise of religious beliefs, and committing murder with the use of a firearm.
Splansky ended her post by listing all the names of those killed at Tree of Life: Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Rose Mallinger, 97; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; Cecil Rosenthal, 59; David Rosenthal, 54; Bernice Simon, 84; Sylvan Simon, 86; Daniel Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 88; Irving Younger, 69.
“They knew who they were,” she said. “Zichronam livrachah. May their memories be for blessing.”
A vigil will be held in Toronto Monday to remember Fienberg and others killed in the shooting.
With files from The New York Times
Alexandra Jones is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @AlexandraMaeJ