Tree of Life massacre

‘They were perfect souls:’ Mourners remember brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal of Squirrel Hill

Funerals for the 11 victims of the Tree of Life shooting began Tuesday.

Mourners leave the funeral of brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal at Rodef Shalom Synagogue.

Mourners leave the funeral of brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal at Rodef Shalom Synagogue.

Mykal McEldowney/USA TODAY NETWORK
MJ Slaby

Updated 9:45 p.m.

Brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal were known for their smiles, the way they said hello, and their hearts.

And they were also known for being first to greet people coming into Tree of Life.

Knowing that they were probably the first to greet the gunman when he walked in — “that’s the hardest part for me,” said Cathy Bremer after the joint funeral.

Her husband, Arthur Kalson, a cousin of the Rosenthal brothers, agreed, adding that Cecil probably pointed him to his seat.

Kalson and Bremer came from San Fransisco for the Tuesday services. While he never met David, he said he knew the brothers were very close and “good-hearted souls.”

Brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal arrive at Rodef Shalom Synagogue in Pittsburgh, with the assistance of county sheriffs and city police.

Brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal arrive at Rodef Shalom Synagogue in Pittsburgh, with the assistance of county sheriffs and city police.

Mykal McEldowney/USA TODAY NETWORK
Brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal arrive at Rodef Shalom Synagogue in Pittsburgh, with the assistance of county sheriffs and city police.

Brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal arrive at Rodef Shalom Synagogue in Pittsburgh, with the assistance of county sheriffs and city police.

Mykal McEldowney/USA TODAY NETWORK

On Tuesday, mourners for Cecil, 59, and David, 54, Rosenthal, both of Squirrel Hill, gathered in a line that stretched from the back of Temple Rodef Shalom, up Morewood Avenue and around the block nearly to the front doors for a visitation that started at 10 a.m.

The line of mourners was mostly quiet as they waited to meet with family during visitation. The block was under heavy police watch and officers directed traffic around a closed portion of Morewood.

As he waited in line, Rabbi Mordy Rudolph, executive director of Friendship Circle, an organization that pairs adults with other adults with disabilities said there’s one vision of Cecil that keeps coming to mind.

It was him sitting down in Rudolph’s office and saying, “I want to volunteer.”

“He had thought very seriously about it and wanted to give back,” Rudolph said.

Joel Pirchesky of Squirrel Hill said he grew up with Cecil and David and lived down the street from Cecil as adults. He said he’d always think about the way they said hello.

“They were perfect souls,” he said, adding their happiness was part of that perfection.

Pirchesky said his sister stopped in town Friday and had she stayed overnight, they probably would have been at Tree of Life on Saturday, when a gunman entered the synagogue and opened fire, killing Cecil, David and 9 other congregants and injuring six people, including four officers.

Cecil and David were part of the fabric of the Jewish community, Rudolph added and said that the whole community is mourning.

“It’s everyone in the same boat … It could have been any congregation,” he said of the shooting, adding that police said the gunman was on his way out when they found him. “Who knows where someone filled with that much hate would go?”

The brothers’ funeral started at noon and lasted nearly an hour before their caskets were taken out of the synagogue and placed in side-by-side hearses.

Officials in attendance included Mayor Bill Peduto, Chief of Staff Dan Gilman, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and council members Corey O’Connor and Erika Strassburger.

From the funeral, Kalson said, one prayer stood out.

“Hebrew is a very mournful language,” he said.

“It was all the sadness, all of the mourning, all the history of the Jewish people.”