Rose Mallinger, 97, attended synagogue ‘almost without fail’ for decades
At 97, Rose Mallinger walked everywhere in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood she called home.
She was sharp, witty and the “sweetest woman I ever knew,” according to David Muskal, 63, who grew up with Mallinger’s three children and remains in close contact with the family and his old neighborhood of Squirrel Hill despite living in Charlotte, N.C.
Muskal said he was heartbroken to hear that Mallinger was among the 11 people killed Saturday in the Tree of Life synagogue. Mallinger’s daughter was wounded in the attack and remains hospitalized, he said.
“Words can’t express what a good woman this was,” Muskal said in a phone interview from his home. “She was like a second mom. My heart is crushed.”
Muskal and another close friend – Guy Costa, Pittsburgh’s chief operations officer – said they’ve known the Mallingers for 50 years. They attended Alderdice High School with Mallinger’s three children and were very close with her son, Alan, who is known to friends as “Mal.”
Muskal said spoke with Alan Mallinger by phone after the shooting.
“It probably hasn’t set in for him,” Muskal said. “Mal’s a strong character.”
He and Costa said Rose Mallinger watched over the neighborhood from the porch of her home on Ferree Street. She walked everywhere. She made the best Jello in the world and would skip rope on her porch for exercise well into her 60’s, according to Muskal.
“She loved to walk,” Costa said. “I think that’s what kept her so spry. You never think that something like this could happen in your back yard, and this is our back yard. ”
Cost, 62, lives in Squirrel Hill and his mother lives around the corner from Tree of Life, he said.
Muskal said he is heading to Pittsburgh Wednesday to help comfort the Mallingers.
“My heart pours out to Mal and his family,” he said. “The bottom line is a vibrant person lost her life. It’s sickening.”
Chuck Diamond, a former rabbi at Tree of Life, said the first person he worried about was Rose Mallinger when he heard that a gunman had opened fire inside the synagogue.
“She was a synagogue-goer, and not everybody is. She’s gone to the synagogue for a lifetime, no matter how many people are there,” Diamond said.
Diamond, 63, has known Mallinger for years.
“I feel a part of me died in that building,” he said.
When Diamond was rabbi, he had a nickname for Mallinger and another congregant whose name also starts with an “R.”
“I used to call Ray and Rose my RR,” he said. “I think of them, and a smile comes to my face.”
Lynette Lederman, a former president of Tree of Life, said Mallinger’s daughter has been taking her to the synagogue every week. The daughter was shot in the arm, Lederman and Diamond said.
Years ago, Mallinger used to come to the synagogue with her sister, Sylvia, who later died. The sisters were usually the ones preparing breakfast for the congregants, Lederman said.