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My Father's People

A Family of Southern Jews

Louis D. Rubin Jr.

Publication Year: 2002

Louis Rubin’s people on his father’s side were odd, inscrutable, and remarkable. In contrast to his mother’s family, who were “normal, good people devoid of mystery,” the ways of the Rubins both puzzled and attracted him. In My Father’s People, Rubin tells “as best I can about them all — my father, his three brothers, and his three sisters.” It is a searching, sensitive story of Americanization, assimilation, and the displacement — and survival — of a religious heritage. Born between 1888 and 1902 in Charleston, South Carolina, their father an immigrant Russian Jew, the Rubin children suffered dire poverty, humiliation, and separation when their parents became incapacitated. Three of the boys were sent to the Hebrew Orphans’ Home in Atlanta for several years. Yet the sons all managed to build long, productive, even notable lives and livelihoods, becoming, variously, a newspaper editor, Broadway playwright and Hollywood screenwriter, businessman, and — in the case of Rubin’s father — a far-famed long-range weather prognosticator. Private people, reticent to discuss their painful early years, the Rubins were not easily knowable. Still, the author draws a strikingly candid portrait of each, using memories, stories, keen insight, and broad empathy — fascinating character studies full of individual propensities and peculiarities that together reveal the wider family resemblance. Although the Rubins were mostly nonreligious as adults, their family’s rabbinical tradition and their experience as southern Jews were key to their vocational fervor and the lives they made for themselves. “They were Americans, and they were Jews,” Rubin concludes. “These were enough.” Told with Louis Rubin’s signature eloquence and wit, My Father’s People is a testimony to the courage of immigrant southern Jews and their gifts to their chosen country.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title page, copyright, dedication

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pp. iii-v


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p. ix-ix

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p. xiii-xiii

For information from the files of the Hebrew Orphans' Home of Atlanta, I am grateful to Sandra K. Berman, archivist of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, Atlanta. Mr. Sol Breibart, of Charleston, South Carolina, longtime scholar of the history of ...

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pp. 1-4

One hundred years ago, on a September day in 1902, three little boys were placed aboard a train in Charleston, South Carolina, and sent off to the Hebrew Orphans' Home in Atlanta, Georgia. They were not orphans; both their parents were living. Their father, however, was ill ...

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1. A Family

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pp. 5-17

The Males Departed in the order of their arrival. Harry, the patriarch, went first, then Dan, Manning, and last my father, Louis. All the sisters outlived them. Dora, oldest of all her generation, died in her mid-nineties, followed by Essie—Esther—and Ruthie, the youngest and also ...

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2. Dora

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pp. 18-24

During the late 1930s, there was a comic strip in the afternoon newspaper entitled "Little Miss Muffet." In one sequence Miss Muffet was being menaced by a scheming schoolmistress, and as the little girl's peril increased, my Aunt Dora grew so alarmed that she arranged to have a ...

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3. The Patriarch

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pp. 25-37

My uncle Harry, who was given to striking poses, was holding forth at dinner one day about the ideal existence. "If I could have lived at any time and in any place I chose," he declared expansively, "I'd like to have been a citizen of Charleston in the year 1810." To which my Uncle Manning, a man ...

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4. Riddle Me This

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pp. 38-62

Alone of the four brothers, my Uncle Dan, next oldest to Harry, left Charleston as a young man. While working as a newspaperman he taught himself to write plays. When in his thirties he had five new plays on Broadway in seven years, then spent a half-dozen years in Hollywood writing ...

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5. Strong Cigar [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 63-95

Sunday mornings in the 1930S my Uncle Manning would walk along a stone-ballasted embankment leading out into the Ashley River at the foot of Beaufain Street in Charleston, choose a seat on the rocks, and begin reading. It was there that my brother and sister and I would ...

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6. The Weatherman

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pp. 96-123

When in 1955 I published my first book, a friend telephoned my father to offer congratulations. Unlike his three brothers my father was not much on reading, and he tended to get his literary references confused. He had in mind the fables of the ugly duckling and the black ...

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7. Vocations

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pp. 124-139

My father was the fifth child and youngest son. A sister, Esther, was born in 1897, and another, Ruth, in 1902. When Hyman Levy Rubin was disabled by a heart attack that year, the two youngest children, Esther and Ruthie, were kept in Charleston rather than being sent away to the ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780807153529
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807128084

Page Count: 139
Publication Year: 2002