Doctor and Nurse Among Those Shot at Pittsburgh Synagogue

Miriam E. Tucker


November 02, 2018

Editor's note: Miriam Tucker is a freelance journalist for Medscape.

Since 66-year-old Jerry Rabinowitz, MD, was brutally gunned down at Tree of Life synagogue last Saturday, I’ve learned that he was among the first physicians to treat patients with HIV/AIDS and that he died trying to help others. Before that, I only knew him as a dear friend to my mother in her last years, who would visit her every day during her many hospitalizations.

Another of the shooting victims, Dan Leger, 70, is a retired hospice nurse and chaplain at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He, too, ministered to my mother in her dying days. He was seriously wounded and as of this writing is in intensive care, but thankfully is said to be improving.

Tree of Life synagogue. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

I grew up in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, two blocks from Tree of Life synagogue, where an anti-Semitic gunman killed 11 people and wounded six others on October 27. As did Jerry, my family belonged to the Reconstructionist congregation Dor Hadash, which rents space in the Tree of Life building. Jerry and his wife Miri also served as congregation presidents.

The two health professionals were scheduled to co-lead the service that day.

Much has been written about Jerry’s kindness and devotion to the medical profession, and that he treated HIV/AIDS patients as a young physician in the 1980s and '90s, when many others shied away.

I can only add that his friendship meant the world to my mother, who died of complications from colon cancer in 2016 at the age of 86. I met Jerry on several occasions while attending High Holiday services at Tree of Life with my mother, the last time in 2015. He and I would chat about my freelance writing for Medscape. He was interested in my area of focus, diabetes, among many other subjects. He told me that during his visits with my mother, she would speak with pride about my work.

Dan was also a fixture in my mother’s life. Before and after my father’s death in 2003, Dan helped guide us through both the spiritual and practical issues around the funeral, and helped organize the service and burial for us. He did the same when my mother passed away. He was with her in the Squirrel Hill skilled nursing center on the morning of her last day, helping her organize her many writings.

Dan is one of the kindest, warmest, most giving people I’ve ever met. My mother called him “one of those angels who walks among us.” And that’s not the way she typically talked about people.

According to news reports, Dan was shot numerous times in the torso, with wounds to multiple organs. He’s undergone several surgeries but is expected to survive. I fervently hope that he and his family are now receiving the same loving kindness that he has always selflessly offered others.


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