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This Synagogue Shooting Victim Was a Hero to Patients During the AIDS Crisis

This Synagogue Shooting Victim Was a Hero to Patients During the AIDS Crisis

dr. jerry rabinowitz

"He often held our hands (without rubber gloves) and always, always hugged us as we left his office."

Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz was one of the 11 victims murdered in Saturday's mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

One heartfelt social media eulogy for the 66 year old geriatrician and family physician from Edgewood Borough has gone viral, beautifully explaining how he helped victims during the AIDS crisis when no one else would.

Michael Kerr, a volunteer at ACT UP, wrote on Facebook:

My doctor Jerry Rabinowitz was among those killed in the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting. He took care of me up until I left Pittsburgh for NYC in 2004.

In the old days for HIV patients in Pittsburgh he was to one to go to. 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.

We made a deal about my T cells in that I didn't want to know the numbers visit to visit because I knew I would fret with every little fluctuation and I also knew that AZT was not working for my friends. The deal was that he would just let me know at some point when the T cell numbers meant I needed to start on medications. The numbers were his job and my job was to finish my masters thesis and get a job with insurance and try to not go crazy.

I got lucky beyond words - because when he gently told me around November 1995 that it was time to begin taking medications - there was an ACTG trial for two HIV medications that saved my life. One of which I still take today.

Thank you ACT UP for getting these drugs into a safe but effective expedited research protocol. You saved my life.

And thank you Dr. Rabinowitiz for having always been there during the most terrifying and frightening time of my life. You will be remembered by me always. You are one of my heroes just like the early ACT UP warriors - some of which I now call friend.

Kerr's post elicited an outpouring. of love from others, who chimed in about Rabinowitz. "In a time when doctors refused to treat HIV patients like humans, Rabinowitz would hold their hands," Ariel Friedlander, one of Kerr's friends, wrote on Twitter. "May his memory be a blessing."

"That's the man our family knew. The man whose response to my discussion of transitioning was entirely supportive," Kerry Lazarus replied. "Thank you for sharing his story."


Rabinowitz's dedication to helping people took place until his very last breathes. According to his nephew Avishai Ostrin, Rabinowitz rushed to help the wounded during Saturday's attack.

"He was a doctor, a healer," Ostrin said in a Facebook post Sunday. "When he heard shots he ran outside to try and see if anyone was hurt and needed a doctor."

He added: "That was Uncle Jerry, that's just what he did."

"You know how they say there are people who just lighten up a room? You know that cliche about people whose laugh is infectious? That was Uncle Jerry. It wasn't a cliche. It was just his personality. His laughter, with his chest heaving up and down, with a huge smile on his face -- that was Uncle Jerry."

Want to help the victims and their families? You can donate directly to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh through its website, or to a number of crowdfunding projects that have been launched, including this verified GoFundMe effort. The money raised will go towards physical repairs to the building and to the survivors and victims' families.

To learn more about anti-Semitism and how to combat it, head here.

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