Tree of Life massacre

Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz remembered as a healer and mensch — in all capital letters

Funerals for the 11 victims of the Tree of Life shooting began Tuesday.

Family of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, embrace before his funeral at the Jewish Community Center in the Squirrel Hill.

Family of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, embrace before his funeral at the Jewish Community Center in the Squirrel Hill.

Cara Owsley/USA TODAY NETWORK
Sarah Anne Hughes

Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, one of the 11 people murdered inside the Tree of Life Synagogue, was mourned by hundreds of people Tuesday at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill.

Rabinowitz, a 66-year-old who lived in Edgewood and had a practice in Bloomfield, was described during the service as a mensch in all capital letters, according to a person who attended, and remembered as a physician who gave all of his patients VIP treatment.

Arline and Ben Scheib were patients of Rabinowitz’s for 22 years. He gave them his personal cell phone number and was always available when they needed him.

“We are in our mid-80s, and we credit our good health to Dr. Rabinowitz,” Ben said after leaving the funeral.

“Such a good person,” Arline added. “It’s going to be hard.”

A proces­sional leaves the Jewish Community Center after the funeral of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.

A proces­sional leaves the Jewish Community Center after the funeral of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.

Cara Owsley/USA TODAY NETWORK

As a doctor, Rabinowitz undoubtedly saved lives. Michael Kerr was patient of Rabinowitz’s until 2004, during which time the doctor got Kerr enrolled in a live-saving medication trial for HIV.

“In the old days for HIV patients in Pittsburgh he was to one to go to,” Kerr wrote on Facebook. “Basically before there was effective treatment for fighting HIV itself, he was known in the community for keeping us alive the longest. He often held our hands (without rubber gloves) and always always hugged us as we left his office.”

Former Allegheny County Deputy District Attorney Law Claus, a patient of Rabinowitz’s for more than three decades, described the doctor in a statement as a “trusted confidant and healer who could always be counted upon to provide sage advice whenever he was consulted on medical matters, usually providing that advice with a touch of genuine humor.”

“He had a truly uplifting demeanor, and as a practicing physician he was among the very best.”

Following the funeral, Rabinowitz’s body was driven to Homewood Cemetery for interment. Dozens of mourners followed him on foot as the streets in Squirrel Hill fell silent save for the sound of car engines.

A proces­sional leaves the Jewish Community Center after the funeral of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.

A proces­sional leaves the Jewish Community Center after the funeral of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.

Cara Owsley/USA TODAY NETWORK

Rabinowitz was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and a member of the Dor Hadash congregation, one of three that meets in the Tree of Life synagogue.

“Jerry welcomed me at a table of all senior physicians when I was training at Shadyside. When I first joined Dor Hadash, he was one of the few familiar faces among all of you,” a woman wrote on the congregation’s Facebook page. “He went out of his way to be welcoming to me and my children. He really had a knack for welcoming people and he’ll be missed.”

He was described by his nephew Avishai Ostrin as having an infectious laugh and a love of bow ties.

“I just learned a short while ago that although the shooter traveled within the building looking for victims, Uncle Jerry wasn’t killed in the basement of the building where the congregation was Davening, he was shot outside the room. Why? Because when he heard shots he ran outside to try and see if anyone was hurt and needed a doctor,” Ostrin wrote on Facebook. “That was Uncle Jerry, that’s just what he did.”

Explore other Tree of Life massacre stories.

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