Passing of Rabbi Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein

Shalom Berger's picture

H-Judaic is saddened to learn of the passing of Rabbi Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein (1924-2021), rabbi, theologian, educator, and past president of the University of Bridgeport.  Rubenstein is best remembered for his book, AFTER AUSCHWITZ, and his central role in the "Death of God" theology that it explored.    The American Jewish Archives, where his papers are reposited, published the following biographical sketch:

Richard L. Rubenstein was born on January 8, 1924 in New York City to Jesse George Rubenstein and Sarah Fine Rubenstein. Rubenstein attended the College of the City, New York, 1940-1942, and was a student at the Hebrew Union College from 1942-1945. In 1946 he received a B.A. from the University of Cincinnati. Disillusioned with Reform Judaism, Rubenstein received his Master's of Hebrew Literature in 1952 from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he was also ordained as a rabbi. Desirous of furthering his theological knowledge, Rubenstein attended Harvard Divinity School and received a Master's of Theology in 1955 and a Ph.D. in 1960. His thesis was titled "Psychoanalysis and the Image of Evil in Rabbinic Literature." Psychoanalysis has remained an important topic throughout his career. Rubenstein's career as a rabbi was short-lived. His first position was at Temple Beth Emunah in Brockton, Massachusetts, 1952-1954. He moved on to Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts from 1954-1956. Rubenstein then took on the position of Assistant Director of the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation and chaplain to the Jewish students at Harvard University, Radcliffe and Wellesley, 1956-1958. From 1958-1970 he was the Director of the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation and chaplain to the Jewish students at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie-Mellon University and Duquesne University. After these jobs, Rubenstein remained in academic positions. After leaving Pittsburgh, Rubenstein went to Churwalden, Switzerland as a visiting lecturer at the Albert Switzer College in the summer of 1963. In 1964 he returned to Pittsburgh as the Charles E. Merrill Lecturer in the Humanities at the University of Pittsburgh until 1969, when he became an Adjunct Professor of the Humanities. While there he taught courses on French Existentialism and Twentieth Century European Literature. In 1970 Rubenstein took a position as professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida in the Religion Department. He taught classes on Religion and Society, Freud, Hegel, Modern Judaism and the Holocaust. In 2001 Florida State University's Religion Department created the Richard L. Rubenstein Chair of Religious Studies in his honor. After many years at Florida State University as a Distinguished Professor of Religion, Rubenstein assumed the presidency of the University of Bridgeport, in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1995. He stepped down in 1999 and became the director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, as well as remaining a faculty member. Throughout his career, Rubenstein has been active in academic and socially conscious organizations. From 1981 to 1992 he was the president of The Washington Institute for Values in Public Policy, a public policy research institute. He was also involved with the Professors World Peace Academy, The New Ecumenical Research Association, and the International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences, among many others. He was also on the Advisory Council to the Unification Church International. Rubenstein's bibliography is vast, having written countless articles for various journals and magazines such as The Reconstructionist, Conservative Judaism, and Christian Century among many others. Some of his most popular and profound books are After Auschwitz: Racial Theology and Contemporary Judaism (1966), The Age of Triage: Fear and Hope in an Overcrowded World (1983), Approaches to Auschwitz (1987), The Cunning of History (1975), Morality and Eros (1970), My Brother Paul (1972), Power Struggle (1974), The Religious Imagination ( 1968), and Spirit Matters (1987).

Rubenstein's autobiography, POWER STRUGGLE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH (1974) is a remarkable work. Its depiction of the Jewish Theological Seminary during his student days is particularly memorable.  

In his later years, Rubenstein played an active role in the Unification Church of Rev. Moon.  He admired it for its anti-Communism.

Rubenstein's WIKIPEDIA article lists assessments of his work and other aspects of his life and career (

      We extend deepest condolences to his family, students, and to all who knew him.  Many thanks to Menachem Butler for passing on the news of his passing.


     Jonathan D. Sarna

      Chair, H-Judaic

Categories: Obituary
Keywords: Necrology

A reader has pointed out that the correct title of the first of Richard Rubenstein's book is: After Auschwitz: Radical Theology and Contemporary Judaism (1966) and not as originally posted.

My apologies for the error.

Dr. Shalom Z. Berger
Co-editor, H-Judaic