OU group hosting vigil to honor victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

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All the guns used in Saturday's massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue had been purchased legally, a federal official said Wednesday. **Credit: CNN/AP/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/facebook**

NORMAN, Okla. – An Oklahoma community is joining in solidarity with a Pittsburgh synagogue less than a week after a deadly shooting claimed the lives of 11 people.

A vigil is planned for Thursday afternoon along the University of Oklahoma campus to honor the lives lost and those injured last week at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pennsylvania.

OU Hillel and the Schusterman Center for Judaic and Israel Studies and hosting a vigil at 12 p.m. on Nov. 1 at OU Hillel, located at the corner of Boyd and Elm Streets.

Organizers say everyone is welcome to attend.

The vigil comes just one day after University of Pittsburgh students gathered in the rain to rally against hate and gun violence.

“I hope that people walk away understanding that this isn’t just an issue we can think about in terms of anti-Semitism, or just in terms of gun violence. It’s the combination of the two. It’s what happens when violence and hate become one thing, it’s real and it takes people’s lives. And we won’t stand for it,” University of Pittsburgh sophomore Kathryn Fleisher said.

National Jewish leaders, meanwhile, are encouraging Americans of every faith to follow up last week’s deadly shooting by attending Shabbat services in their own hometowns, in solidarity with Pittsburgh.

Funerals continue Wednesday

Mourners gathered Wednesday to bury some of the 11 people killed in the Saturday massacre. Those killed ranged in age from 54 to 97. Additional funerals are planned Thursday.

The funeral for Joyce Fienberg, 75, began Wednesday morning, while the funerals for Irving Younger, 69, and Melvin Wax, 87 — both big Pittsburgh Pirates fans — were held early afternoon.

Fienberg was a widow, a mother and a grandmother who enjoyed a long career as a University of Pittsburgh research specialist. But graduate students of her late husband also knew her as a warm host who welcomed them into her family’s home and sent them holiday cards for years after they left.

Irving Younger was a greeter at Tree of Life synagogue who met people with a warm handshake and showed them to their seats. It was a role that came naturally to the former real estate agent, who used to have an office on one of Squirrel Hill’s main thoroughfares. More recently, he enjoyed spending time at one of the sidewalk tables in front of a local coffee shop, where he appointed himself as greeter, his friend Barton Schachter said.

Melvin Wax’s greatest passions were his grandson, his religion and the Pittsburgh Pirates. His sister said they would joke with him that he should have been a rabbi.

On Tuesday, brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal were laid to rest, followed by Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz. Crowds packed the funerals, with long lines snaking through streets and busloads of people coming from synagogues nationwide. Pedestrians quietly watched as motorcades and hearses passed by, followed on foot by mourners dressed in black. Others held hands and wept.

The Rosenthal brothers were fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team, and about 100 players and staff members paid their respects at the Rodef Shalom Congregation. Rabinowitz was remembered as caring. He became known in Pittsburgh as the “one to go to” for HIV care because he treated everyone with dignity and respect, former patient Michael Kerr said. His patients are among those grieving his death.

The community united to mourn what’s believed to be deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history.

Suspect faces federal and state charges

Suspect Robert Bowers, 46, faces 44 federal charges, including counts of hate crimes that are potentially punishable by death. He made his first court appearance Monday. An investigator said Wednesday that the AR-15 rifle and three Glock handguns Bowers used in the attack were purchased legally.

Bowers was detained without bond, and his next court date is Thursday. The US attorney in Pittsburgh has started the process of seeking the death penalty.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said his office is looking into whether Bowers and others used social media platform Gab to incite violence based on evidence that the suspect posted anti-Semitic comments on the site. The state has not filed charges.

Andrew Torba, the CEO of Gab, defended the site. In an interview with CNN affiliate WBRE, he said he’s “horrified” the suspect used his site but said “there are bad people in the world, and they are on every social network.”

During the interview, he wore a hat that said, “Make Speech Free Again.”

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