The Rubensteins z''l Biography

Updated Friday September 11, 2015 by JBL.

About the Rubensteins:

Rabbi Jacob S. Rubenstein and Deborah Rubenstein suddenly and tragically died in a house fire in April 2008 after serving the Scarsdale and New Rochelle community for more than 2 decades.

Rabbi Rubenstein, Rabbi of the Young Israel of Scarsdale, had long been active in outreach, social activism, legislative advocacy, international affairs and philanthropic endeavors. His writings, which span the academic to the popular, have appeared in a number of newspapers, books and journals.

Rabbi Rubenstein made a special effort to establish a relationship with children in the congregation, often visiting the classes and youth group meetings, and teaching bar and bat mitzvah students. He could regularly be seen dancing with a child, hugging a child, laughing with a child or showing off his love of classical rock music.

Born in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany to Holocaust survivor parents, Rabbi Rubenstein came to the United States as a child with his family, first residing in Memphis Tennessee. Rabbi Rubenstein received his Jewish and secular education in Memphis, Chicago, Israel, and Boston. He attended the Yeshiva at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, Yeshivat Radin in Netanya, Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim, and is one of the founders of the Diaspora Yeshiva in Jerusalem. He received his Rabbinic ordination from the Chief Justices of both the Rabbinic Court of the Ashkenazic, as well as the Sephardic community of Jerusalem. Rabbi Rubenstein was a graduate of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Talmud and Jewish Philosophy & Kabbalah, and earned a Masters Degree from Harvard University in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

The Rabbi was a scholar and a community leader. He was a past President of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and served as its Honorary President.  He served the RCA as chairman of its Social Action Committee and organized the first Rabbinic Missions to Washington. He has served as both President and National Chairman of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal. For a number of years, Rabbi Rubenstein chaired the Rabbinic Advisory Council of the U.J.A- Federation of New York. He was a past President of the Westchester Board of Rabbis, an executive officer of the Westchester Rabbinical Council and has served on the board of the Westchester Jewish Conference. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Washington Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values and a member of the Orthodox Jewish Caucus.

Rabbi Rubenstein's awards included: the Orthodox Union National Rabbinical Leadership Centennial Award, 1999, the Keser Torah Award, Ariel Institutes of Israel, 1994; the Samuel W. and Rose Hurowitz Award, UJA Federation of New York, 1993; Rabbinic Award, General Assembly of the Combined Jewish Federations, 1991; Rabbinic Service Award, UJA-Federation, Westchester Division, 1987; City of Peace Award by Israel Bonds, 1978; NCSY New England Region Meritorious Leadership Award; Dr. and Mrs. Abraham Stern Service Award, Yeshiva University; and is listed in Marquis Who's Who in Religion, 1991,1998. and Marquis Who’s Who in America, 2000.

During the High Holy Days of 2003 he was one of 15 rabbis invited to meet President George W. Bush at the White House.

Rabbi Rubenstein served in pulpits in Milford, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island, before becoming the spiritual leader, at the Young Israel of Scarsdale, where he, along with his wife Debbie, served with distinction for close to 25 years.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Deborah Rubenstein was born and raised in Montreal. She was educated in the local Hebrew Day School in Montreal.   It was when she went on her junior year abroad to study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where she eventually received her B.A. that she met Rabbi Jacob S. Rubenstein. z’l.

The Rabbi and Debbie were soon married in Debbie’s hometown in Canada. They returned to Jerusalem where they continued their studies together. While Rabbi Rubenstein was studying simultaneously at the Hebrew University and at the Mir and Diaspora Yeshivot, Debbie finished her studies in Hebrew University and also attended a Teachers Seminary for Judaic studies in Mount Zion, Jerusalem. Debbie continued her education while they were living in Boston, studying at Boston State College and working her way towards a degree in Elementary education. In 1982 Debbie also received a Teachers Certificate from the Bureau of Jewish Education. Debbie was a master teacher and influencer of Jews in her own right. She served dutifully in her role as a “Rebbetzin” all the while, supporting and assisting Rabbi Rubenstein in his many Rabbinic duties and pursuits.

Debbie served in several posts wherever she and Rubenstein had settled; her personal contributions to Jewish education spanned 4 decades. She taught Jewish studies at Congregation Agudat Achim in Leominster, Mass. from 1972-76. She was the Principal and teacher for 1st -4th graders at Congregation Bnai Israel in Rhode Island from 1977-83. Debbie also  served as the Principal and Teacher for grades Aleph, Bet & Gimmel at Congregation Adas Israel in Fall River, Massachusetts from 1983-1984.    
Debbie served in several posts wherever she and Rubenstein had settled; her personal contributions to Jewish education spanned 4 decades. She taught Jewish studies at Congregation Agudat Achim in Leominster, Mass. from 1972-76. She was the Principal and teacher for 1st -4th graders at Congregation Bnai Israel in Rhode Island from 1977-83. Debbie also  served as the Principal and Teacher for grades Aleph, Bet & Gimmel at Congregation Adas Israel in Fall River, Massachusetts from 1983-1984.  She then went on to become the sole Principal of the Hebrew School of the Hillcrest Jewish Center, in Hillcrest, New York.   Debbie stayed at this post for 5 years, from 1984-1989.   
Debbie served in several posts wherever she and Rubenstein had settled; her personal contributions to Jewish education spanned 4 decades. She taught Jewish studies at Congregation Agudat Achim in Leominster, Mass. from 1972-76. She was the Principal and teacher for 1st -4th graders at Congregation Bnai Israel in Rhode Island from 1977-83. Debbie also  served as the Principal and Teacher for grades Aleph, Bet & Gimmel at Congregation Adas Israel in Fall River, Massachusetts from 1983-1984.  She then went on to become the sole Principal of the Hebrew School of the Hillcrest Jewish Center, in Hillcrest, New York.   Debbie stayed at this post for 5 years, from 1984-1989.   
 
At that point in her life, Debbie, whose creative energy was ceaseless, began tutoring men and women throughout the YIS community and beyond, in Hebrew Language and Judaic Studies.   Her final post was at the Temple Israel in New Rochelle where she taught Jewish cooking and Judaic studies classes since 2004.   It goes without saying that Debbie was beloved by her students for her kindness, patience, and sincerity.   
 
As a “Rebbetzin” she hosted hundreds of people in her home on Shabbatot, holidays, and even weekdays. Some of them were people they knew from the synagogue and some she hardly new; but the Rabbi brought them in and she accepted them whole-heartedly as fellow Jews and people in need. Congregants often spoke of her quiet “mitzvah” visits, whether it was some food for an expectant mother who was having some difficulties or someone who could just use a spiritual lift. The Rabbi and Debbie z’l were truly a dynamic duo of Torah and Chesed.

The Rubensteins had practiced a joyous, inclusive and embracing traditional Judaism that will now serve as their lasting legacy. They are missed by us all; yet we know that their lives have inspired us and will continue to do so for many years to come.