Obituary for Howard S Rubenstein, MD
June 14, 1931-September 20, 2020
Howard S Rubenstein, MD, age 89, died September 20, 2020, peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by his loving family, at home, of stage four metastatic cancer. The funeral was private because of COVID-19. The family thanks friends and relatives for their kind and generous expressions of sympathy and help during his illness, and the caring attentions of Interim Healthcare Hospice, 1st Meridian Care Services, and his doctors and nurses and technicians at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines, San Diego, and the Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center, San Diego, California.
Howard Rubenstein was a physician, writer, photographer, and gardener. He was born in 1931 in Chicago, the son of Sidney and Selma Moldofsky Rubenstein and older brother of his sister Susan. His father ran the family business of the Ruby Dry Cleaners, then one of the first and largest dry cleaners in Chicago. His mother was a homemaker and book keeper. He had his Bar Mitzvah at Anshe Emet Synagogue. He graduated from Lake View High School where he was co-Consul of the Latin Club. Howard was the first person in his family to go to college.
Howard received a B.A. magna cum laude from Carleton College 1953, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi and won the Noyes Prize for excellence in ancient Greek while a premedical student. In 1957 he received an M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He interned and took a residency in internal medicine at the Los Angeles County General Hospital. He returned to Harvard Medical School to conduct research in the field of Bacteriology and Immunology, first as a National Institutes of Health Fellow, then as the distinguished Harold C. Ernst Fellow, and then as an Assistant Professor of Medicine. In 1966 he was appointed Physician and Chief of Allergy at the Harvard University Health Services (HUHS), Cambridge, MA.
In 1968 he married Judith Ann Selig; their four children, Emily, Adam, Jennifer, and John, were born while they lived in Cambridge and Winchester and Howard was at HUHS. Howard and Judy won the prize in the contest to suggest the motto for HUHS, “Health Care with Caring.” In 1989 Howard was appointed Medical Consultant to the Department of Social Services, state of California and moved with his family to San Diego. In 2000 he retired from the practice of medicine. He continued to write and photograph. He has written many scientific papers, most during his research years; ten plays, all published and most produced; and more than eight books, all published. His work concerns Jewish, Christian, Classical Greek, historical topics, and classics and is listed on amazon.com. He is in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.
Howard often spoke of a few major influences in his life before marriage beyond his family and his formal education. In 1951, at age 20, he participated in The Experiment in International Living, Rouen, France, where he lived with Drs. Rene and Madeleine de la Quierere and their four children and developed a lifelong love of French culture and international travel. He maintained contact with the family all his life. In medical school he spent one summer as a medical assistant at Alamoosook Island Camp in Maine where he learned to sail which he loved. One summer in the 1960s he volunteered as a doctor at Hopital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti, which exposed him to extreme world poverty needing correction.
One of the most important international experiences he had was in 1984 when he and his wife were invited to China, along with a group of American physicians, by the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Medical Association to lecture and exchange medical information. During that visit, the group was taken on a tour of the country. The Rubensteins loved China, her natural beauty, her great culture, and her famous cuisine. After Howard’s retirement from medicine he discovered the 13th century Chinese classical play Xi Xiang Ji and wrote his English adaptation Romance of the Western Chamber – A Musical, by Howard Rubenstein (book and lyrics) and Max Lee (music). In 2011, under the sponsorship of Dr. Li-Rong Lilly Cheng of San Diego State University, Rubenstein and Lee’s play had its world premiere at the Dongpo Theatre in Hangzhou, China, in Rubenstein’s English with Mandarin supertitles. In 2017 it had its American premiere at the Off-Off Broadway TADA! Theater NYC. It was scheduled for its west coast premiere July, 2020, at the Don Powell Theatre, San Diego State University, produced by Dr. Rosa Ovshinsky, sponsored by Dr. Li-Rong Lilly Cheng and the SDSU Chinese Cultural Center, Dr. Niyi Coker, Director of Theatre, Television, and Film, but COVID-19 forced the postponement.
Rubenstein’s version of the play was published as an illustrated children’s book in 2020 Romance of the Western Chamber: English-Chinese Version for Children, English version by Howard Rubenstein, Translated into Mandarin by Li-Rong Lilly Cheng, Illustrated by Moch Fajar Shobaru, Edited by Judith S. Rubenstein, published by Granite Hills Press™.
Prometheus Bound by Howard Rubenstein, a play published in 2020, was scheduled to be produced Off-Broadway in NYC at The Tank theater, Meghan Finn, Artistic Director, Ran Xia, Director, September, 2020, but it was postponed because of COVID-19. However, it has been rescheduled to be filmed for On Demand on TV.
In spite of all of Howard’s interests and activities, it always seemed to us that the family came first. He was always home for dinner by 6 o’clock, and we had family dinner together, and in warm weather he would take the children for a quiet walk around the block. The family spent summer vacations at their cottage on Suncook Lake in New Hampshire, where he led us in swimming, boating, walking in the woods, watching the sunsets, cooking out, picking wild berries, reading, and just regenerating. He taught the children how to divide one wild blackberry into six parts. These were memorable times for the family. He was a model supportive husband. When Judy was completing her doctoral thesis, Howard spent many evenings making popcorn and reading to the children and putting them to bed. One of the stories Howard and Judy loved to tell was how they met in 1967, introduced by one of Judy’s students, Tova Reuter, an Israeli woman who was a survivor of the Patria, an illegal refugee ship carrying Jews fleeing Nazis from Europe, which was blown up and sunk in Haifa Harbor in 1940.
After the children grew up and had their own lives, Judy and Howard traveled extensively including throughout Europe, China, Israel, South America, Australia, Tahiti, the USA, with many interesting experiences such as participating in the Samaritan Seder on Mount Gerizim. In 2013 the Rubensteins moved to Pacific Regent La Jolla where they have been very happy amid the friendly residents and staff.
Life with Howard Rubenstein was a full and stimulating experience. His friends called him a Renaissance man because of his love of science, data, statistics, art, literature, music, and gardening. His brilliance, his marvelous, often irreverent, humor, the delicious fruit from his orchard, his kind, sparkling eyes, made people enjoy being in his company.
Howard was enormously proud of his family. He will be sorely missed. He leaves his beloved and grieving family: Judy Rubenstein (Dr. Judith S.), his devoted wife of 52 years, their children and sons-in-law Dr. Emily (Asaph) Engel, Dr. Adam Rubenstein, Dr. Jennifer (Dr. Benjamin) Zigun, and Atty. John Rubenstein, J.D.; four grandchildren Simon Engel, Elliot Engel, Noah Zigun, and Abigail Zigun; and his nephew Joshua Swartzberg. His parents and sister, Susan Rubenstein Swartzberg, are deceased. Howard also leaves his in-laws Elaine and Dr. David Gould and their children his nieces, Dina, Talya, and Sara, and many friends who cherished his friendship.
In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to a charity of your choice.