Bernice and Sylvan Simon were married together in a candelight ceremony at the Tree of Life synagogue. The year was 1956, according to an old newspaper article chronicling the start of their married life together.
They died there, in the same congregation, at the hands of a murderous anti-Semitic gunman. Married for life, together in death, this is the story of Bernice and Sylvan Simon. The Simons were among the 11 people who died at Tree of Life when the gunman burst into the iconic Pittsburgh synagogue on October 27, 2018.
You can read bios – and see more photos – of the other victims here. They ranged in age from 54 to 97. They were, to the one, described as gentle souls devoted to their faith and families. That is also true of the only couple to die: Bernice and Sylvan Simon, of Wilkinsburg.
Here’s what you need to know:
Bernice & Sylvan Simon Were Married at Tree of Life in a Candlelight Ceremony
Bernice and Sylvan Simon were married in 1956. When they died together, in the Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting, they were ages 84 and 86, respectively. They were the only couple to die, although brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal also perished in the shooting.
The couple’s wedding announcement, which ran December 27, 1956 in the Pittsburgh Press, says that “Tree of Life Synagogue was the wedding scene of Bernice Ruth Rothenberg and Sylvan Simon. They were married Saturday in a candlelight ceremony.”
The announcement says she was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Morris Rothenberg of Farrell, Pa. He was the son of Mrs. Emanuel Simon of Chesterfield Road, Pittsburgh. They honeymooned in New York City. The wedding announcement adds, “the couple will live in Squirrel Hill.”
The Couple Held Hands in the Neighborhood & Were ‘Together Forever’
According to TribLive, Bernice Simon was known for the cranberry orange bread she would gift neighbors. The couple cut a loving figure in their community.
“They held hands and they always smiled and he would open the door for her, all those things that you want from another person,” a neighbor told TribLive of the Simons. “They were really generous and nice to everybody. It’s just horrific.” Another friend told the newspaper that the couple was “together forever.”
TribLive says the couple had stickers on their front door that said “Support Our Troops,” “God Bless America,” and “America the Beautiful.”
Sylvan & Bernice Were Remembered as a ‘Beautiful Couple’
Person after person who knew the Simons remembered them as a close and loving couple.
Rebecca Simeone wrote on Facebook, “When I heard the names my heart sank. I got to know Bernice and Sylvan Simon well when I worked for Citizens Bank. They were a BEAUTIFUL couple. I’m glad they are together. Lord, I know they are in your care, but please comfort those who mourn ♡”
Their neighbor told CNN that the couple was “loving and giving and kind, gracious and dignified.”
The Other Victims Include a Retired Secretary, a Dentist & a Doctor
The biographies of the other victims are starting to emerge. They include a new grandfather; two brothers who were well-known around the synagogue; a researcher married to a prominent professor; a local dentist who volunteered in charitable efforts; and a beloved doctor. You can read their stories here.
The names of the victims are as follows:
Joyce Fienberg, 75, of Oakland, City of Pittsburgh
Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross Township
Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood Borough
Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill
His brother, David Rosenthal, 54, of Squirrel Hill
Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg
Her husband, Sylvan Simon, 86, of Wilkinsburg
Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh
Melvin Wax, 88, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh
Irving Younger, 69, of Mt. Washington, City of Pittsburgh