PITTSBURGH — Mourners remembered synagogue shooting victim Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz as a man who never stopped smiling — but always took his work as a healer seriously — during his funeral Tuesday.
“His demeanor led people to believe he was a mal’akh — an angel — and his presence was divinely inspired,” said Congregation Dor Hadash Rabbi Cheryl Klein during a service at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill. “Jerry’s death should be a call for all of us to model his compassion and urgency to heal the world. We will do this one mitzvah at a time.”
Rabinowitz was remembered for his compassionate treatment of sufferers during the 1980s AIDS crisis — when panic over the then-mysterious disease was at its zenith.
“Never shirking from his duty to his oath, he led me to a conference on AIDS at a time where we know essentially nothing about it — except that it was contagious and fatal,” recalled his partner Dr. Ken Ciesielka. “When word spread that we were ready, willing and able to care for AIDS patients, we soon had the third-largest AIDS practice in the county — just two physicians.”
Despite an intensely serious devotion to his profession, Rabinowitz was also remembered for his upbeat demeanor and signature bow tie.
When Dor Hadash president Ellen Surloff first met Rabinowitz, her “first reaction was, ‘Who in the world is that turkey in a bow tie?’ — and then ‘Why is he always smiling?’”
“He used to smile filling the Dixie cups for the kiddush. I never saw somebody look so happy filling Dixie cups,” she joked.
Surloff wore a bow tie in Rabinowitz’s honor.
“Some of us were fortunate enough to pick up some fashion tips from Jerry. But Jerry, I could have used some advice on how to tie this thing on,” she said.