Synagogue shooting victim Melvin Wax remembered as pillar of congregation
Melvin Wax was the first to arrive at New Light Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood — and the last to leave.
Wax, 88, was among those killed when a gunman entered the synagogue Saturday and opened fire at Sabbath services. Fellow members of the congregation, which rented space in the lower level of the Tree of Life Congregation, say Wax was a kind man and a pillar of the congregation.
Myron Snider spoke late Saturday about his friend, who would stay late to tell jokes with him. He said “Mel,” a retired accountant, was unfailingly generous.
“He was such a kind, kind person. When my daughters were younger, they would go to him, and he would help them with their federal income tax every year. Never charged them,” said Snider, chairman of the congregation’s cemetery committee.
“He and I used to, at the end of services, try to tell a joke or two to each other,” Snider said. “Most of the time, they were clean jokes. Most of the time. I won’t say all the time. But most of the time.”
New Light moved to the Tree of Life building about a year ago, when the congregation of about 100 mostly older members could no longer afford its own space, said administrative assistant Marilyn Honigsberg. She said Wax, who lost his wife Sandra in 2016, was always there when services began at 9:45 a.m.
“I know a few of the people who are always there that early, and he is one of them,” she said.
Snider said Wax, who was slightly hard of hearing, could fill just about every role for the congregation except cantor.
“He went Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, when there were Sunday services,” said Snider, a retired pharmacist. “If somebody didn’t come that was supposed to lead services, he could lead the services and do everything. He knew how to do everything at the synagogue. He was really a very learned person.”
Snider had just been released from a six-week hospital stay for pneumonia and was not at Saturday’s services.
“He called my wife to get my phone number in the hospital so he could talk to me,” Snider said. “Just a sweet, sweet guy.”