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Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz

On a fall day in 1971, College sophomore Kenneth Ciesielka emerged from his room on a top floor of High Rise East and saw his classmate, Jerry Rabinowitz, in the hallway. Rabinowitz was canvassing his college dorm, searching for a partner to join him in a game of intramural football, and Ciesielka decided to take him up on the offer. 

In college, Ciesielka and Rabinowitz's relationship evolved from hallmates to friends. And over the following four decades, the two Penn graduates would grow close, following similar paths and ultimately becoming partners in their profession. 

On Tuesday, Ciesielka delivered a eulogy at the funeral service of his former classmate, business partner, and friend. 

Rabinowitz died as one of the 11 people killed in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting massacre. He was a member of the Dor Hadash Congregation at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

"I don't think I've ever met a finer human being, and it's a tremendous loss," Ciesielka told The Daily Pennsylvanian. "This was a man who was just a giver."

Photo from Charlie Battista

A two-time Penn graduate, Rabinowitz was an esteemed physician who was admired and loved by his friends, family, and patients. The 66-year-old is survived by his wife Miri, his mother Sally, and his brother Bill, as well as other relatives. 

Hailing from Newark, NJ, Rabinowitz arrived on Penn's campus in 1969 and lived in the Class of '28 building in the Quad for his freshman year. 

"I remember him for his always upbeat personality and outgoing personality. He was a caring individual and would do anything to help," 1973 College graduate Charlie Battista wrote in an email to the Daily Pennsylvanian. Battista was Rabinowitz's neighbor during their freshman year. The two lived in the same dorm throughout their final three years as undergraduates.   

Rabinowitz chose a difficult field of study, joining a small group of science-minded students pursuing majors in biochemistry.

"We were a bunch of geeks," Harry Gruber, a 1973 College graduate and 1977 Perelman School of Medicine graduate, said of the students at the time.

Many classmates described Rabinowitz as a dedicated and talented student. 

"[He was] a student that we all wanted to emulate," 1973 College graduate Anthony Kovatch said.

Rabinowitz was elected as a member of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society during the spring semester of his senior year in 1973.

He then enrolled in the Perelman School of Medicine, where he earned his medical degree in 1977. He completed his residency in Pittsburgh before setting up a family practice adjacent to Shadyside Hospital, which became a part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 1997. 

Through it all, Rabinowitz's and Ciesielka's paths continued to converge; Ciesielka graduated from the Medical School in 1980 and completed the same residency as his former hallmate in Pittsburgh. 

The two consistently reconnected to enjoy dinner a couple of times each year. In 1986, they decided to combine their medical expertise with Ciesielka joining Rabinowitz's private practice. 

The pair were professional partners for upward of 30 years. 

"If people were to ask me why [we were able to be partners for so long], I'd say it's because we were more alike than we were different," Ciesielka said. 

From left to right: Robert Wood, Charlie Battista, Kenneth Ciesielka, and Jerry Rabinowitz — all classmates at Penn — reunited about one year ago in Pittsburgh. (Photo from Charlie Battista)

Among his patients, Rabinowitz developed a reputation for generosity and dedication, particularly for his kind treatment of HIV-positive patients during the height of the AIDS crisis. 

In a statement emailed to Medical School alumni, Dean of the Medical School Larry Jameson and Senior Vice Dean for Medical Education Suzi Rose praised Rabinowitz's contributions to the medical field. 

"All members of the Penn alumni family grieve the untimely passing of a man who will be remembered for his boundless compassion and humanistic approach to his work as a physician," they wrote. 

During the Penn for Pittsburgh Vigil on Monday, Penn President Amy Gutmann also paid homage to Rabinowitz, describing his life as an altruistic doctor who died while trying to help fellow members of the synagogue during the massacre.

Credit: Hannah Lazar

Penn President Amy Gutmann stands in solidarity at the vigil for victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

"He died as he lived his his (sic) life, in helping others over himself," Battista wrote.