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Hundreds honor 'earnest but fun-loving' Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz at funeral

Emily Balser
| Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, 12:15 p.m.

The love and inclusiveness Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz put into the world was obvious Tuesday as hundreds of people gathered to say their final goodbyes.

The funeral for Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood was held at the Katz Theater of the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill. Those closest to the beloved doctor shared memories and stories of a man they so admired.

The center accommodated the massive crowd of mourners by streaming the service in its gym, which was also packed.

Rabinowitz practiced family medicine in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood. He was known for his glowing smile and signature bow ties.

Longtime friend Mark Sarver has known Rabinowitz since they were 8 years old. They both went on to be family physicians despite the push for doctors to become specialists at that time. He said Rabinowitz was confident and not afraid to be different—even as a little boy.

“As a boy, Jerry was very much a smaller version of his adult self,” he said. “He was studious and brilliant, earnest but fun-loving with a goofy sense of humor.”

Sarver said no matter how much time went between their visits or talks on the phone they always remained close.

“Laughter was the key to our friendship,” he said.

Rabinowitz’s partner in medicine, Dr. Kenneth Ciesielka, first met Rabinowitz in college at University of Pennsylvania. Their paths merged again in the late 1980s when they began their practice together.

Soon after they merged practices, at the encouragement of Rabinowitz, they began treating AIDS patients when few others would or could.

“Recently, we were at lunch—we often had lunch together once or twice a week—we were reflecting on the course of our careers,” he said. “I told him in my opinion that was our finest hour.”

In addition to serving Pittsburgh as a doctor, he spent time volunteering with charities and serving as the chair of a medical ethics committee.

“Right up to the end, he continued with his profound need to help others,” Ciesielka said. “I was told he rushed out of the relative safety of the Bible study room to help the injured and thus became a victim himself.”

Ellen Surloff, president of Dor Hadash congregation, spoke of Rabinowitz and his wife Miri’s dedication to the congregation. Surloff wore a bow tie in his honor.

“Jerry was the person who quietly behind the scenes did everything for congregation Dor Hadash,” she said. “He did it out of love.”

Surloff said there was always a smile on Jerry’s face — even when he was being beaten at the congregation’s annual poker games.

She ended with a final statement for Rabinowitz.

“Jerry, you will be missed; you will be remembered,” she said. “There is a hole in the congregational heart, and we will do our best to bring the kind of joy and optimism that you brought every day of your life to all of those around you.”

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at ebalser@tribweb.com.

Members of the community follow the hearse on foot, as it takes the deceased Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz and family to the Homewood Cemetery for internment on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Members of the community follow the hearse on foot, as it takes the deceased Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz and family to the Homewood Cemetery for internment on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.
Larry Perl, 67, of White Oak, watches as cars enter the Homewood Cemetery, as mourners make their way to the internment of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, who was killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. After walking along behind the hearse from the Jewish Community Center to the Homewood Cemetery, Perl said 'I wanted to show respect, and the strength and unity we have as a community.'
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Larry Perl, 67, of White Oak, watches as cars enter the Homewood Cemetery, as mourners make their way to the internment of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, who was killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. After walking along behind the hearse from the Jewish Community Center to the Homewood Cemetery, Perl said 'I wanted to show respect, and the strength and unity we have as a community.'
Staff Sgt. Kendall Lubay, 32, of West View, stands at attention as mourners enter the Homewood Cemetery for the burial of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, who was killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Staff Sgt. Kendall Lubay, 32, of West View, stands at attention as mourners enter the Homewood Cemetery for the burial of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, who was killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.
Members of the community follow the hearse on foot, as it takes the deceased Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz and family to the Homewood Cemetery for internment on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Members of the community follow the hearse on foot, as it takes the deceased Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz and family to the Homewood Cemetery for internment on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.
Members of the community follow the hearse on foot, as it takes the deceased Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz and family to the Homewood Cemetery for internment on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Members of the community follow the hearse on foot, as it takes the deceased Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz and family to the Homewood Cemetery for internment on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.
Mourners cry as they walk along Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill as part of a funeral procession for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Mourners cry as they walk along Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill as part of a funeral procession for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Pittsburgh Police officers look on as mourners line Darlington Road in Squirrel Hill for the funeral service of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Police officers look on as mourners line Darlington Road in Squirrel Hill for the funeral service of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Mourners leave the funeral service of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Mourners leave the funeral service of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Mourners line up along Darlington Road in Squirrel Hill prior to the start of a funeral service for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz at the Harry and Fay Gurrentz Wing of the Jewish Community Center on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.
Mourners line up along Darlington Road in Squirrel Hill prior to the start of a funeral service for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz at the Harry and Fay Gurrentz Wing of the Jewish Community Center on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.
Mourners embrace as they line Darlington Road in Squirrel Hill for the funeral service of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Mourners embrace as they line Darlington Road in Squirrel Hill for the funeral service of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Mourners shake hands as a funeral procession gets underway following a service for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Mourners shake hands as a funeral procession gets underway following a service for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
A mourner talks to the media following the funeral service of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
A mourner talks to the media following the funeral service of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
A woman cries as she leaves the funeral service of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
A woman cries as she leaves the funeral service of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
A funeral procession for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz moves along Darlington Road in Squirrel Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
A funeral procession for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz moves along Darlington Road in Squirrel Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Mourners walk along Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill as part of a funeral procession for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Mourners walk along Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill as part of a funeral procession for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Police stand outside the Harry and Fay Gurrentz Wing of the Jewish Community Center as mourners arrive for the funeral service of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Police stand outside the Harry and Fay Gurrentz Wing of the Jewish Community Center as mourners arrive for the funeral service of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.
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