Richard Rubenstein, 97, dies; A theologian challenged the ideas of God


Although not a member of the church, Dr Rubenstein was brought in to support it due to Reverend Moon’s fierce anti-communism, Professor Berenbaum said.

Richard Lowell Rubenstein was born January 28, 1924 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to Jesse and Sara (Fine) Rubenstein, non-practicing parents who even chose not to have their son called to the Torah for his bar mitzvah. Her father worked for a production company owned by her brother-in-law, and her mother was a housewife with an intellectual bent who had studied at New York University, receiving an MA in English Literature.

Ambitious for her children, she persuaded her husband to move to a more upscale part of the city, the Upper East Side. Richard skipped three years and attended the original Townsend Harris High School in Manhattan, one of the best in town. (Her sister, Roberta Spohn, was for a long time the deputy commissioner of the city’s aging department.)

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a son, Jeremy, from his first marriage to Ellen Vanderveen; three stepchildren from her marriage to Betty Rogers Rubenstein, art historian – John H. Alschuler, Jean Reed and Liora Alschuler; and 10 grandchildren and step-grandchildren. A son, Aaron, from his first marriage, died in 2007. Dr. Rubenstein lived in Fairfield, Connecticut.

After beginning his undergraduate studies at City College in New York, Dr. Rubenstein completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of Cincinnati while studying for the rabbinate at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. He followed a revered teacher, Abraham Joshua Heschel, at the Jewish Theological Seminary, which ordained him a rabbi in 1952.

He received a Masters in Sacred Theology from Harvard Divinity School and a Doctorate in History of Religions in 1960 from Harvard University, where he studied with Professor Tillich.


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