Skip To Content
Fast Forward

Slain Pittsburgh Doctor Jerry Rabinowitz Held AIDS Patients’ Hands As Disease Spread

Among the 11 victims murdered Saturday morning at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue was a doctor known for his compassion and understanding of HIV/AIDS in the days when the disease was poorly accepted.

A former patient spoke out about his grief as well as his appreciation for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, who literally held his hand during the most challenging days of his life.

“In the old days for HIV patients in Pittsburgh, he was the doctor to go to. He was known in the community for keeping us alive the longest,” Michael Kerr wrote to the Forward on Monday.

Kerr was reportedly a patient of Rabinowitz’s until he left for New York 2004. It was the “old days” for those with HIV — a time before there was an effective treatment, and a major stigma, for the disease that devastated a generation.

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

Rabinowitz treated other types of illnesses as well, practicing as a geriatrician and family physician. He was beloved by his patients, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. “You could go to him and present a jumble of physical symptoms and emotional reactions,” and he could sort it all out, said Jan Grice, who has Lupus, an autoimmune disease. Grice was a patient of Rabinowitz’s for 35 years. He was “the sort of doctor who sent you on your way feeling better in all respects,” she added.

Dr. Rabinowitz attended college and medical school at University of Pennsylvania. The 66-year-old was reportedly shot as he rushed to help congregants that had already been wounded.

Contact Haley Cohen at [email protected]

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.