Doctor killed in synagogue was shot while helping others, nephew writes on Facebook

November 20, 2018

When Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz heard gunshots inside his Squirrel Hill synagogue, he ran to see who he could help.

Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood, a doctor remembered by his patients as a kind and dedicated physician, was among the 11 killed Saturday inside Tree of Life Congregation.

His nephew, Avishai Ostrin, wrote in a Facebook post that his uncle wasn’t killed in the basement, but 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. That was Uncle Jerry, that’s just what he did,” Ostrin wrote.

Ostrin wrote that in addition to being the president of the congregation, his uncle was a doctor and a healer. Ostrin remembered his uncle’s penchant for bow ties.

“He always wore a bow tie. There is just something about guys who wear bow ties. Something youthful, something fun. And that is a word that definitely embodied my Uncle Jerry -- fun,” Ostrin wrote. “You know how they say there are people who just lighten up a room? You know that cliché about people whose laugh is infectious? That was Uncle Jerry. It wasn’t a cliché. 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. And that bow tie. That bow tie that you know made people smile, you know made his patients more at ease.”

Ostrin works as an attorney in his native Israel.

“An unfortunate reality of living in Israel is that you always assume -- if not consciously then subconsciously -- that sad news, news about death, news about attacks, will come from this side of the globe,” he wrote Sunday night on Facebook.

“The last thing that occurs to you, the last thing you imagine, is that news about an attack will come from your family living in Pittsburgh,” he wrote. “It is unthinkable that such a heinous act can be carried out in such a place, to people peacefully congregating in order to pray together. And it is so hard. It is so hard to be so far away, to be on the other side of the ocean, rather than hugging your loved ones, grieving with them.”

Rabinowitz would want people to take away a message of love and unity and of the strength and resilience of the Jewish people, Ostrin wrote.

“Because those who seek to do us harm are trying to take that from us. Those who seek to do us harm hope that these actions will divide us, drive us to hatred and war,” Ostrin wrote. “We must therefore show them, show the world, that we always grow stronger, more loving, we become even more united, and the memory of our loved ones will be a blessing to us all. I love you Uncle Jerry. May your memory be a blessing.”

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