Ruby Family History Project Blog

Stan's birthday ,occasion at Brenners and forthcoming quest to Rostov, Vilna and Kovno

Dear Dan, Jo and world,

I am extremely exhausted tonight, preparing for my forthcoming trip to the former Soviet Union (Kiev, Rostov, Moscow, Minsk, Vilnius, Kaunas on trip to research our families in Rostov and Lithuania, but felt the need to put at least something up here on the occasion of what would have been Stan's 83rd birthday. We all miss him terribly and it would have been wonderful to share with him the joy of our geneological hunt into both sides of his family, which has succeeded beyond all expectation in terms of where we were at soon after his death when we started this project. My biggest excitement recently was finding in a book at Yeshiva University in NY that Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spektor was the grandfather of Joseph Rabinovitch and ttherefore our great-great-great grandfather. Stan always told me we were descended from Rabbi Spektor, but only recently, when reading the biography of Rabbi Spektor by Rabbi Efraim Shimoff, based on Toldos Yitzhak, by Yitzhak LIfshitz, Rabbi Spektor's secretary, did I find the exact connection. According to the book, my great-grandfather Yosef Rabinowitz (or Rabinovich) was the grandson of Rabbi Spektor and the son of Chaim, the rabbi's oldest son. According to Lifshitz, when Chaim died at the age of 40 in 1874, Rabbi Spektor took charge of his grandson, then 19 and taught him Talmud and Jewish Codes and found him a bride. (According to U.S. census records, her name was Lena Lincoff and the newlywed couple emigrated together to New York in 1875, where they had 9 children, the youngest of was our grandfather, Walter Rabinowitz (b 1893), who changed his name to Ruby at the time he was being inducted into the U.S. Army in 1917 and sent to fight in France.

I have learned a lot also about Rabbi Spektor's role as the chief shdadlan (negotiator) with the Czarist government on behalf of the Russian Jewish community after the beginning of the pogroms of the 1880's, and his outreach to the leaders of West European Jewry (the Rothschilds and many others) to pressure the Czar to lay off the Jews (A lot of these messages were written in a kind of code so as to throw off government spies) and his gingerly embrace of the Hibbat Tzion (Lovers of Zion) movement, the first stirrings of Zionism in Russia that came 15 years before Theodor Herzl. So the great rabbi has come alive and as a very sympathetic and complex character. But I digress...

Tonight, we think of Stan and all of his wonderful qualities and zest for life and the wonderful legacy of values and insight he has left for us. We hope that our lives since your passing, Dad, including this quest, would do you proud and hope that somehow, somwhere you may be aware of all of this. I know it goes against all of your theories and convinced athiesm, but what the hell...

Last weekend, Tanya and I had a enjoyable and meaningful reunion at the home of Sandy and Mel Brenner of some of the surviving members of the older generation of Ruby relatives; Mel and Sandy Brenner, still going strong at 82 and 78 respectively, Marsha and Shelly, Robert Felenstein and wife Jane and Janice Brenner, the radiant ballerina. As viewers will notice, none of us are as young as we once were, but everyone was lively, upbeat and full of the wisdom of having kicked around this planet for a while. We had a delicious lamb roast, drank wine, talked about many things, including politics. Mel reminisced about having been a McGovern delegate in 1972 and there was a group effort to try to understand why this country has elected so many Neanderthal Republicans over the past 40 years. It was wonderful to reconnect to the liberal passion that was such a part of the lives of Stan and Helga and has been passed down to myself, Jo and Danny and to Janice as well. Excellent values, if I do say so myself. Many thanks Stan, Helga, Mel and Sandy for passing them along to us. Maybe they will come back into fashion in 2008. Too bad Stan and Helga had to leave us during the darkest period of Bushism. But to cite Ted Kennedy and Helga, "The cause goes on and the dream will never die..."

By the way, Sandy recalled that our great-grandmother Rose Ratner always reminsced with her about Rostov that it was the most beautiful city in the world and showed us a set of dishes collected by her mother Til decades ago, each emblazoned with a Rose in memory of her beloved mother, Rose Ratner.

How did 150 plus years of our family get from the shtetl to where are now? Well, I think I have to plunge back into the shtetl to understand some of that, so I'm playing guinea pig for that role. I'll be posting on our findings in Rostov and Lithuania when we return on August 8 or perhaps while we are there if we find a working computer. In the meantime, lehitraot and enjoy the photos I am putting up here from the get-together in Massapeaqua. (I'll put up a few more in subsequent posting).

Walter's visit to Piedmont and Los Gatos

I am just completing a wonderful three days here with Dan, Jo, Bill, Lani, Twyla and Maxine and a large cast of League of Wmen's Voters members (I was about to write 'ladies', but the League has gone thoroughloy co-ed, so the president of the Southwest Santa Clara League is now a man). Jo and I spent Saturday with the Southwest Santa Clara League members at a retreat in which one member, Dale Hill, was awarded the Helga Ruby Outstanding Member award. This was the first year the award has been given, but it will be an annual affair. It was a moving occasion for Jo and I to see and hear from so many League members about what a critical role Helga played for them as a League activist, and in many cases, as mentor and friend. Sadly, I was all too often disinterested when Helga told me about her involvement in a succession of Leagues (Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Gatos) over a period of decades, and only got interested on one of two occasions in her last year or two, when I suddenly realized that I have become very interested in grass roots politics covering it as a reporter, and here was my mother delving into it in great detail and full of passion for so many years--and I hadn't paid attention. But now I'm contemplating finding out my local League in New Jersey and getting involved. (note to readers: last summer Walter returned from Israel saying he had decided to make aliyah, so we'll believe this thing about joining the League when we see it).

Then Jo and I had a mellow afternoon in Los Gatos visiting Helga and Stan's close friends Suzanne and Jo and then to the trippy 'Halfway to Heaven' house of trippy Charlie Walton, filled with wired electronic contraptions, including an electric train montage that could lowered from the ceiling at the push of a button, and with majestic views over the Valley and surrounding mountains. We also went for a short hike on the mountainside that one gazed at from Stan and Helga's place on Overlook Drive. Altogether a deeply enjoyable 'return' to Los Gatos, which somehow has gone on with its unhurried existence without Stan and Helga.

The rest of my visit included a serious hike with Jo in that wonderful endless preserve in the hills overlooking Oakland; a visit to the cemetery, where we paid on the ground beside our parents gravestone and told stories about them; three terrific dinners, one in a Thai Restaurant and one superb meal each cooked by my gourmet siblings; Dan did a shish-kebab thing with the lamb perfectly cooked and suffused with all the right spices and Jo did a marvelous shrimp and rice dish. We had a lot to catch up on in terms of who is doing what--a lot of the story of Lani and Jo's all-but -certain move to Paris in September, where Lani will attend the International School, and Dan's recent trip into the heart of darkness of a red neck music festival down in the deserts of southern California. We made a 'dent' in going through boxes of photos and artificats of Stan and Helga, but honestly a rather small dent. There was a lot of nachas all around concerning the achievements and plans of Twyla, Gene, Zach and Lani.

So it was wonderful, relaxing, theraputic and a chance to come closer as a family both as we look back on our wonderful parents, but also as we look to the future.

288 Pleasant Ave--home of Joseph and Lena Rabinowitz in 1900

Back in mid-August, I left the following posting on RFHP:
Wow--the 1900 census has Joseph born in about 1855 and Lena in 1857, which is really getting back there. Lena is 36 when she has Walter, her last of 8 children (one deceased). They reside at 288 Pleasant Ave. in Manhattan, wherever that is. A deluge of info--but I have to stop now because must get up and finish writing a story tomorrow.

so I finally did a Mapquest and, yes, Virginia, there IS a Pleasant Ave. in Manhattan, in East Harlem, exactly where Stan said they lived. It is the easternmost street in that part of Manhattan, running N-S between 114 and 120th streets. 288 is between 115 and 116. Will definitely go and see it--if it is still standing--the next time I cross the Triborough.

RFH document available for download

The draft Ruby Family History document is now available for download as a pdf file. Use the link in the sidebar at right. We'll be adding access to the other document and artifact files listed in the near future.


Blogger upgrade enables categories

I upgraded to the new version of the Blogger software today. This will allow a variety of improvements, which I will look at later. But I've already implemented the most important new feature. We are now able to categorize our blog posts according to labels we define. I've quickly gone through and assigned labels to all our old posts. We may want to refine the label wording and assignments later, but already you can go to the label listings in the blog sidebar and select any one to view just the posts relevant to that subject. Any future posts can be assigned to one or more of the existing labels or given a new one.

One immediate conclusion from looking at the results is that we have only scratched the surface in producing content for the blog. Maybe that will inspire us to put some new energy into the project.


Journal publishes Stanley Ruby obituary

Here is the Stanley Ruby obituary from Hyperfine Interactions, as downloaded from the Springer-Verlag library of scholarly journals. Thank you to Gopal Shenoy for making this happen and keeping us informed. It is wonderful to have this assessment by three of Stan's peers of his impact in the physics world.

Stanley Ruby 1924–2004
Gopal Shenoy & Gennadii Smirnov & John Arthur
© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2006
Hyperfine Interact
DOI 10.1007/s10751-006-9348-8

Stanley L. Ruby, who made major contributions to Mössbauer spectroscopy and who inspired the community with the idea of observing the Mössbauer effect using synchrotron radiation, passed away on October 18, 2004, in Los Gatos, California. His boundless intellectual curiosity and passion for life was an inspiration to all around him, especially his scientific colleagues.

Born in New York City in 1924, Stan served in the US Army Signal Corps during World War II in New Guinea and the Philippines. He performed his undergraduate and graduate studies at Columbia University, guided in his graduate work primarily by Professor Madame C.-S. Wu.

He briefly worked at the IBM Watson Laboratory before starting his work on Mössbauer spectroscopy with Fe57 in 1960 at Westinghouse Electric Corporation. He collaborated with Paul Flinn (Stanford University) and Gen Shirane (Brookhaven National Laboratory), studying a large class of magnetic compounds. His most recognized work from this period was on the acoustic modulation of the wavelength of resonant gamma radiation, detected using the Mössbauer effect. During a visit to the Weizmann Institute in 1962, he observed the 9.3 keV Mössbauer resonance in Kr83.

Stan joined Argonne National Laboratory in 1964, where he was involved in the discovery of many Mössbauer resonances, including K40. Since this isotope has no radioactive parent, Stan and R. E. Holland (Argonne) observed it by populating the 29.4 keV excited nuclear state by means of deuteron bombardment (K39(d,p)K40). Later, Stan and D. H. Vincent (University of Michigan) excited the K40 resonance through the neutron capture reaction (K39(n, +)K40).

Argonne provided an ideal setting for Stan. He could incubate his ideas with colleagues who helped them blossom into successful experiments. He actively worked with a large number of scientists from different divisions at Argonne, with backgrounds in nuclear physics, materials science, and solid state physics. This was essential for establishing new Mössbauer resonances and finding the best techniques to unravel nuclear, chemical and solid state properties. In particular, his collaboration with Michael Kalvius, Bobby Dunlap and Gopal Shenoy led to many publications dealing with resonances in Sn119, Sb121, Te125, I127,129, U238, Np237, Am243.

Stan will be best remembered for his proposal in 1974 to excite the 14.4 keV Mössbauer resonance in Fe57 using synchrotron radiation rather than a radioactive source to populate the nuclear excited state. Stan struggled for years to develop techniques for separating the nuclear resonant X-rays from the overwhelming background. In the early 1980s, Stan moved from Argonne to the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory with the sole desire to succeed with his idea. Although it was the group of Erich Gerdau that first achieved this goal in 1985 at DESY, Stan and the SSRL group followed in 1987 and proceeded to make important contributions to this new field.

During the period 1990–1995 Stan and the Stanford group collaborated closely with scientists from Russia (Kurchatov Institute) and Germany (Munich Technical University) in a series of experiments at SSRL and CHESS. They observed and explained several surprising features of the coherent nuclear exciton created by a synchrotron pulse in a nuclear sample, such as the extreme speed-up of the nuclear exciton decay in scattering from a multilayer, and the nuclear exciton echo induced by vibrating a portion of an excited sample. They were also the first to use synchrotron radiation to excite the narrow 6.2 keV Mössbauer resonance in Ta181. Stan was particularly concerned with the conceptual problem of understanding “when and where” the interaction of X-ray photons with nuclei occurs during the propagation of radiation pulses through a target.

Fundamental physics was central to Stan’s life, though his interests ranged from cosmology to biology. While he allowed that quantum mechanics was useful for calculations, he found it very unsatisfactory on a philosophical level. During his later career, and especially after his retirement, he worked hard to find simple, alternative explanations for quantum phenomena. Stan was young in soul, always individualistic and passionate about his scientific ideas, which sometimes touched very exotic fields. His mind was most acute when he was talking, so he was eager to sit and talk about his latest ideas.

These discussions were always interesting, involving physics, history, astronomy, and politics. Stan’s lifelong concern with the impact of science on society was expressed in his leading role in the campaign against anti-ballistic missiles during the 1970s. Beyond his consuming interest in physical science, his many pursuits included international travel, outdoor recreation, marine life, and observing the human parade.

He was truly a family man and took an avid interest in the lives of all his colleagues. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, three children, and four grandchildren. His friends on several continents will miss him. We remember Stan for his never-fading enthusiasm to discuss physics with anyone who would listen, his friendship, and above all his curiosity for new ideas.

G. Shenoy (*)
Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL, USA

G. Smirnov
Russian Research Center “Kurchatov Institute”, Moscow, Russia

J. Arthur
Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford, CA, USA

The younger Sharons

Photos from Walter in Israel.

Tal, Achikam, Dalit, Gali (left to right) in Achikam and Gali's lovely new suburban home in Kfar Yona north of Tel Aviv.

Little Netta (Achikam and Ali's daugher) with Aunt Dalit

Moving tribute

This is an e-mail I just send to Joanne after reading her wonderful tribute to Stan on his yahrzeit, but then I thought what the hell, I'll put it up on the family history blog as well. Catching a moment in time for posterity and all of that.


Just read your enormously moving tribute to Dad and broke into tears sitting in my hotel room in Jerusalem. You are so right that the view from their gravesite evokes Hodel's farm--thanks so much for the image. And thanks so much for your compassion and love for our parents and your ability to grieve for them in such a deep and profound way on behalf of all of us. Zeh mashehu dai chashuv, something deeply important that you are doing on a cosmic, existential level that is impacting the world far beyind what we can see and discern (as you can see Israel effects me in all osrts of unexpected ways.

You have warmest regards from the whole Sharon family. I got to visit Achikam's house and hang out with him and his lovely wife Gali and baby girl Netta. Dalit and Tal were there also. Spoke to Pnina, who is pressing Ahikam to travel with her to her birthplace in Belarus as well as Raya, who leaves this weel for a vacation with Amiram in northern Italy. Once homebound in Afeq, they have all turned into world travelers. Anyway, the one question that everyone asked of me (it was more of a demand than a question) was "WHEN IS JOANNE-EE COMING? MATAI HE TAVO? ANACHNU KOL KACH OHEVIM OTAH." So what can I say? You better get on a plane over here ASAP! Dan, the Israeli branch of the family would all love to see you as well.

OK, am on a deadline and must run. I put some of my writing on the Russian conference on rubyjewsday; now I have to write another piece on Lieberman (Avigdor, not Joe), whbich is due immieditely for Jewish Week.



Remembering Stan's last days

Joanne writes:

Standing by his gravesite, I was flooded with my still very vivid memory of Stan's last week. It started on my 50th birthday (Monday) -- not being able to take him home as was the discharge plan, but instead to the hospital. I drove him -- my very, very sick father with a failing heart and failed kidneys sleeping next to me. I remember it feeling a bit surreal; like this could be it, he could go out on me right there rolling up 280, his all time favorite highway, past SLAC, to the exit for Stanford Hospital.

He rallied and made it: a ‘rolling admission” (hospital variety not college) – an in-and- out stay for the very sick elderly who come in from a nursing home and are discharged quickly back to the nursing facility. The dialysis was keeping him going, but not for much longer they predicted. We gathered family and friends.

I invited Peggy, of the Good Death Institute, to meet Stan. He had been so quiet and withdrawn. I just had this sense that if he could become aware of his imminent death, he might choose to use the time he had. He had struggled so desperately his last months with his want to have time, to be awake, not to be asleep when he had so much to write, read, say, share. It had been driving him crazy; how his bio-ryhthms were so out of whack. How the kidney failure affected his cognitive process. As a child with my own sleep issues, he had so stressed the joy of being awake. It just seemed right to bring him this woman who helps the dying person die a good death.

Peggy met him on Saturday afternoon 4ish. Stan had been quiet all day, closed eyes, not responded to anyone including cousins Sandy & Mel, Joe, Gene, Helga, me. Peggy held his hand, rubbed it, told him I'd invited her, and that she came to talk about his heart. He opened his eyes. Looked straight at her and said, “My heart? I can tell you a lot about my heart, but you should hear about my kidneys.” Within minutes Stan was alert, upright, and fully engaged, as we all know he can be, and then asked, 'Who are you?" In finding out she was not a doctor, or nurse, but rather a person who talks with people before they die, Stan looked genuinely puzzled, and said, “die”. “Do you think I’m going to die?”

Peggy later told me she’d never in 20 years of hospice work met a person like Stan, so unaware of dying, and found him absolutely remarkable, brilliant, funny, witty and loveable all at once. They talked about the ways of death, of rituals, of the middle ages, of the big bang and the origins of the universe. Stan, said repeatedly, “I am so enjoying this. Thank you so much, Jo, for bringing her to me. But what do I call you? I need a name for you. I know, I’ll call you the ‘warner’”. He pleaded with Peggy to come back as soon as possible.

She said she’d be there Monday after his dialysis and could stay for a few hours. It was stunning. To have Stan back, his brain woken up, his intellectual curiosity aroused. Most incredible was that Stan was bright on the phone in the morning, and when I arrived Sunday afternoon, he wanted to talk more about the Einstein article in Scientific American. He watched football with Zach and Bill and Dan. He talked to Twyla and Lani. He stayed engaged. He was present. He was looking forward to the next day: Walter was due to arrive at noon, he would go with Stan would go to dialysis, Peggy was coming after that.

October anniversaries

Gopal's letter and Dan's posting have moved me to add my thoughts. Just read pieces that I hadn’t seen before, and learned there’s yet another family member to add to the important October dates: Walter Ruby (my grandfather’s) birthday, Oct. 15. So that sits right between mine, the 11th and Helga’s, the 20th. And right in there we also have Stan’s death day, the 18th. And most years we get Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur thrown in there too (as we did this year).

Last week, on my birthday, I took my dear Carly to the cemetery. I gathered a few photos, our combined collection of seashells, and a journal. There at the Oakmont Cemetery in Lafayette, in the Jewish section, called “compassion” I do find true comfort. It does surprise me. Who would have known? It’s not just that it is so incredibly beautiful, being in the open hills and looking down on what I call “Hodel’s Farm” (reference to our backyard neighbor in Pittsburgh). It's that it all seems right; the decision of which plot/s, our carefully crafted words on the stone (“Stanley and Helga Ruby, generous spirits and forces of life, the important thing is to not stop questioning”); that you pass Green Valley Drive and Stanley Boulevards on your way; and that Carly is free to roam. So, it only seems fitting to post this photo of the site and their grave - our official unveiling on the blog.