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Dr. David Chomsky, a cardiologist who made house calls, dies at 86

Dr. David Chomsky, who worked until the COVID-19 pandemic stopped him from making house calls last year, died Tuesday, June 15. He was the brother of activist-scholar Noam Chomsky.

Dr. David Chomsky
Dr. David ChomskyRead moreCourtesy of the Chomsky family

Dr. David Chomsky, 86, of Elkins Park, who spent much of his 60-year career at the now-closed JFK Memorial Hospital in Northeast Philadelphia, died Tuesday, June 15, at his home from cancer.

He also worked at Einstein Medical Center in Logan and Moss Rehab Einstein Health Care at Elkins Park in addition to his private practice, said Samantha Chomsky, a granddaughter.

Dr. Chomsky was a cardiologist known for making house calls until he was 85. He retired last year because it was too risky to venture out during the pandemic.

A close friend, Allen Edelson, said the doctor would drive to rough neighborhoods all over the city.

“Here he was an old man in his red Corvette and no one ever hassled him,” Edelson said.

At one point, the federal government wrote to him, demanding that he stop making house calls. But Dr. Chomsky refused.

“Many of my patients are old and poor and can’t get to the hospital, so I go to see them,” Edelson recalled of the letter the cardiologist wrote back to a government agency.

Dr. Chomsky also loved dogs and trained his two mastiffs, Sidney and Koda, to become therapy animals. He took them to hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and centers for children with disabilities.

“He loved to see people’s faces light up when they met the dogs,” Samantha Chomsky said.

Mary Wright, a registered nurse who worked with him for 30 years, said the staff was always happy to see him arrive with his dogs because the visits helped patients.

David Chomsky was born June 23, 1934, in Philadelphia. He was the younger of two sons of immigrant parents. His father, William Chomsky, from Ukraine, was a Hebrew scholar, writer, and teacher. His mother, Elsie Simonofsky Chomsky, born in Belarus, was also a teacher and writer.

The family later moved to Cheltenham, his older brother, Noam Chomsky, the antiwar activist and noted MIT professor, said in an email.

“My most salient and enduring memories of my little brother are from wonderful days of childhood, when we were almost always together,” Noam Chomsky said.

Because both parents were Hebrew teachers and busy in the afternoons, Noam Chomsky was in charge of watching his younger brother until they returned home.

He sometimes gave “David a ball of string, so that while I was doing homework, he would be occupied tying up everything in the house so that it would be impenetrable when our parents got home,” he said. “In later years, that transitioned to a wry humor, which barely concealed a person of generosity and compassion to a fault. I sorely miss his warm and caring presence, as do we all.”

David Chomsky graduated from Cheltenham High School in 1947 and Temple University in 1951. He received his medical degree from Temple University Medical School in 1959.

In 1953, he met his future wife, Judith Brown Chomsky, while attending Camp Galil, a Jewish summer camp in Ottsville, Pa. They married in 1960.

Judith Chomsky is an international human rights lawyer who years earlier helped organize the Philadelphia Resistance, a group that opposed the Vietnam War.

In 1975, she cofounded the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, the first nonprofit public-interest law firm for children in the United States.

Despite being related to two outspoken public figures, Dr. Chomsky was known for his quiet and reserved personality. Yet he liked to joke with friends and family.

He didn’t talk a lot, his granddaughter said, but he did have a dry and witty sense of humor:

“He made fun of us all the time,” she said. “But we could tell that he loved us through his humor.”

Dr. Chomsky and his wife enjoyed Zydeco dance music that originated in Louisiana and hosted a huge Zydeco dance party every year.

In addition to his wife, brother, and granddaughter, Dr. Chomsky is survived by two sons, Daniel and Don, and four other grandchildren.

Donations in Dr. Chomsky’s memory may be made to Doctors Without Borders, Box 5030 Hagerstown Md. 21741-5030; the Middle East Children’s Alliance, 1101 Eighth St., Suite 100, Berkeley Calif. 94710; or to PAWS, Donor Services, 100 N. Second St., Philadelphia Pa 19106.

A private memorial service will be held next month.