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Irving Younger, killed at Tree of Life, up in heaven greeting people at the gates

November 23, 2018

He could have been the mayor of Squirrel Hill.

That’s how friends and family recalled Irving Younger.

The funeral for Younger, 69, was held Wednesday at Rodef Shalom Temple in Oakland where hundreds of people gathered to remember the man they endearingly called a “schmoozer,” who made it a point to greet and talk with everyone.

Chuck Diamond, a former rabbi at Tree of Life, said he almost expected to be greeted by Younger when he arrived at Rodef Shalom but had to come to terms with that fact that he wouldn’t be there. He had been Younger’s rabbi for 25 years.

“When I realized that wouldn’t happen it really just dug deep into my soul,” Diamond said. “He would do anything for me, he would do anything for the synagogue.”

Although he loved his community and his church, nothing compared to the love he had for his children, Jordanna Younger and Jared Younger, and his grandson, Jaden Buss, who live in California.

“He would go out to California and come back and have a glow about him,” Diamond said to Younger’s children. “Not just because of the sun tan but because of the love and the joy he had by spending time with you guys.”

Jared Younger recalled his father’s love for his family and how he was always there for them, whether to be silly, watch a baseball game or simply take a drive together.

He recalled his father’s new lease on life after losing his wife to cancer 10 years ago. He became a more emotional person and treated each day like a gift. He traveled often to see his children and grandson over the past few years, making the most of his time.

“I remember asking my dad, ‘what was your most favorite part of being alive, what was the best time of your life?,’” Jared Younger said. “He just started tearing up and started crying and said, ’when you and (Jordanna) were little.”

He thanked those at the funeral and the Pittsburgh community for coming together to comfort his family and everyone affected by the tragedy.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, of Tree of Life, said he met Younger in 2017 on his first trip to Pittsburgh before he joined Tree of Life.

“My first greeter in Pittsburgh was Irv Younger,” he said. “That relationship remained until sadly it was struck down.”

Younger was always there to greet everyone as they arrived for various services and events at the synagogue. He would even lend his prayer book to new attendees so they could feel at home.

“You can’t teach that--that was innate,” Myers said. “That was who Irv was.”

Myers, who said he has had to prepare for five funerals this week, appeared to become shaken as he spoke. Before arriving to Younger’s funeral he had been at one for another of the 11 people killed in shooting, Joyce Fienberg, causing him to run late.

Myers said there is a special place in Heaven for people like Younger.

“His seat is being occupied way too soon, but he’s probably not sitting,” Myers said. “He’s right at the gates, greeting everyone else who’s coming in and making them feel warm and welcome and comfortable.”

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