By Keri White
Jonah Klein, a general surgery resident at the Lankenau Medical Center and a Pittsburgh native, has created a fund to honor Jerry Rabinowitz, a doctor who was murdered in the Oct. 27 shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue building.
Rabinowitz, a Penn graduate, was a longstanding, respected member of Congregation Dor Hadash and was rushing in to care for the wounded when he was killed.
“Dr. Rabinowitz was beloved. He was passionate about family medicine and patient care — he made house calls on many of his patients. He was also a brilliant diagnostician,” Klein said. “Because he attended Penn undergrad and medical school, it was important to recognize him in the medical community here in Philadelphia, so I came up with this idea.”
The project began with a GoFundMe page, with an initial goal of making sure that Rabinowitz was remembered and honored across the state. The family medicine residency program at Penn took notice, and is now creating an endowed scholarship.
The funds will be awarded annually to a graduating family medicine resident that embodies Rabinowitz’s devotion to patient care and community outreach, Klein said. The hope is that it will enable a family medicine physician to pursue an opportunity that would otherwise not be available, such as working in a community clinic, conducting research, establishing a diabetic or cholesterol care center, or supplementing resources to build an independent practice in an underserved area.
“Dr. Rabinowitz’s death should be a call for us all to model his compassion and urgency to heal the world,” said Rabbi Cheryl Klein, cantor of Dor Hadash.
When his practice partners, Gary Tabas and Ken Ciesielka, were asked how to honor Rabinowitz, they agreed that the best recognition would be an advancement of his professional vision — his devotion to family medicine and his patients. The endowed scholarship is considered an ideal tribute.
Brett Davidson, senior executive director at the Perelman School of Medicine, said the fund will allow Rabinowitz to be honored in perpetuity.
“An endowment of this type is particularly meaningful in the Family Medicine Department, which receives less notoriety than other departments. This enables us to support a resident to work in the community, advancing patient care, in the way Dr. Rabinowitz did,” Davidson said. “Because these doctors often train and work in economically challenged areas, such as parts of West Philadelphia outside of the Penn campus, the endowment is especially significant.”
Long considered a pillar of his community, Rabinowitz was one of the first physicians in Pittsburgh to treat patients with HIV/AIDS, and was well respected by colleagues, friends, patients and all who knew him, Jonah Klein said.
“Dr. Rabinowitz always took an interest in my medical education and my training. It was really important that he be remembered in Philadelphia, where he started his career,” he said. “Pittsburgh is a very strong community and he will undoubtedly be honored there, but … we need to tell this story every year, especially to young doctors, to ensure that we rebuild our terrible loss.”
The GoFundMe page is still accepting donations at gofundme.com/dr-rabinowitz-memorial-scholarship, although those contributions will be transferred directly to the Penn endowment fund. To donate directly to Penn, visit socialfundraising.apps.upenn.edu/ and search “Rabinowitz,” or contact Brett Davidson at [email protected] or 215-898-9175.
Gifts by check may be made out to Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and mailed to 3535 Market St., Suite 750, Philadelphia, 19104. Note the fund name, Jerry Rabinowitz Memorial Scholarship, in the memo line.
Keri White is a freelance writer and a Jewish Exponent food columnist.