Sidney Eskenazi and Pfizer

Eskenazi Health is grateful for the inspiration, vision, and generosity of Sidney and Lois Eskenazi and the impact they have had on the Indianapolis and the State of Indiana. Most of us are aware that one of the COVID-19 vaccines was created by Pfizer – you may know even more about other achievements of the pharmaceutical company. But, did you know that the two are related? Sidney Eskenazi’s family and Albert Bourla’s family (the CEO of Pfizer) both hailed from the same town in Greece.

Before World War II, Salonika (Thessaloniki) had the largest Jewish community in Greece, with more than 60,000 people. German forces invaded and occupied the city by April 1941 and an estimated 50,000 Jewish residents were killed. Few survived and many fled. Among those were the Bourla family. In 1961, the family welcomed a child named Israel-Abraham (Albert). Albert became a veterinarian and received his doctorate in reproductive biotechnology from the Aristotle University of Salonika Veterinary School. In 1995, he moved to the United States and joined a company named Pfizer. In 2019, he was appointed Chief Executive Officer and led Pfizer’s efforts in creating the vaccination for COVID-19. His vaccine will reach millions, including those in Germany.

David and Naphtali Eskenazi (Sidney Eskenazi’s father and uncle) were also from Salonika. They fled to the U.S. prior to the German invasion. They tirelessly navigated paperwork and red tape in order to get their sister and mother out of Greece. Their mother and sister chose not to come and, unfortunately, they and the rest of the Eskenazi family became victims of the holocaust. Sidney Eskenazi’s father died in 1944, the day Sidney graduated from grade school. But, his survival ensured that he would meet his wife, Sara, and they would have a son, Sidney, who would help change the landscape of public medical care in the City of Indianapolis and build a hospital that would save the lives of thousands throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.