Clara, who passed away in Florida at the age of 97, was one of the pioneers of the 20th-century Jewish Messianic movement and a dedicated evangelist, along with her husband, Joe Rubin, who had previously passed into the presence of the Lord. She was also one of the last living links with Chosen People Ministries’ early work, the Williamsburg Mission to the Jews in Brooklyn. In 1956, the Rubins relocated to Huntington, Long Island, where they served the Lord for the next quarter century.
My Story by Clara Rubin
My parents came from Russia to the United States in 1911. My mother used to tell me stories of the atrocities and pogroms suffered by our people there at Passover time. A gentile child would be hidden, and we Jews would be accused of killing him and using his blood to make matzohs. Then great persecution would follow. At Easter time the Russian priests, wearing expensive robes, marched through the streets carrying a very large cross, which frightened many people and started new riots.
Jews were not allowed to own land in Russia. My grandfather, a peddler, would keep his horse on a gentile’s land. One Saturday night, he went to pay the rent for this privilege and was attacked by the peasant’s dog, causing my grandfather a very painful death by rabies. This left my grandmother a young widow with many small children.
These were the memories passed on to me, a first-generation American. I was born in 1916 in Brooklyn, New York. My family fled Russia for this haven of freedom. But life was difficult and money was scarce. Nearby in Williamsburg, there was a dispensary run by a former rabbi, Leopold Cohn. It was called Beth Sar Shalom (the American Board of Missions to the Jews shown on the left). The doctor’s fee was 15 cents if you could afford it, or else it was free. The medicine was also free.
A Miss Sussdorf of the mission came to our home to inquire about our health and invited the family to come to meetings where we could learn about Jesus, their Messiah. I was taught by my mother that gentiles go to hell because they worship three gods, and we Jews go to heaven because we worship one God (Deut. 6:4). Also, the more good deeds we do to earn mitzvahs, the greater our reward in heaven. My mother was not interested in Jesus, but the mission had a women’s sewing class; and since she was a trained seamstress, she joined that class. As for me, she let me attend meetings since she regarded the mission as a lace for lonely people without means to meet and make friends.
I enjoyed the kindergarten classes at Beth Sar Shalom. Being very bright, I learned to memorize verses from the Bible, even whole chapters. Friday and Sunday night meetings were in Yiddish only. After kindergarten, I attended other classes geared to my age and was impressed by the love these predominantly gentile teachers had for us Jewish children.
You see, there was no love between Jew and gentile in my youth. When gentile children accused me of killing their God, I learned to make a fist, sock them in both eyes quickly and under the chin, then bang them hard on the back. I did not know Jesus and I did not kill him: that was my answer to them.
On Friday nights we would go to the public baths to be clean for Shabbos. We were forced to go a roundabout way to avoid the gentiles who were waiting to persecute us. In some ways, Brooklyn was similar to the Russia my mother knew.
Yet I continued to be drawn to the mission and the classes they taught. Our fellow Jews said that the mission would make me into a gentile and that no Jewish boy would want to marry me. False stories were spread of how the mission branded us with crosses. We kids made sure that if anyone suspicious was at the front door of the mission, we would exit the side door. I didn’t want to become a gentile, so at Bible time in class my behavior was atrocious, causing the teacher much grief.
At 14 years of age, I realized that I had to come to terms with God and His truth. I was a bright but unloving child, a ringleader in a fight and a sinner. I wanted the peace and love that my Bible teacher, Miss Dorothy Rose, had. I realized that for me to be a true Jew, I had to believe like, Moses, Isaiah, Zechariah, Daniel and all the prophets that Jesus was God come in the form of man. He died for me that I might spend eternity with him. I invited Jesus to come into my life and he did.
I asked my teacher, Miss Rose, to forgive me for all the tearful nights I caused her. She said they were not only tearful, but prayerful. God heard her prayers!
I was not exactly quiet about my new-found faith. The neighbors, knowing what I now believed, would shame my mother and curse after me in the streets and call me names. When I wanted to be baptized, my mother said she’d throw herself off the roof if I did. My mother would cry to God, asking Him what sin she had committed that her daughter should become a gentile. She would ask me, Are you smarter than the rabbis?” My answer to her was from Isaiah 29: 13-14.
Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be concealed.”
“Ma,” I would say, “which one of my accusers has opened the Tenach and which one believes what the prophets say? Don’t blame me if I prefer to believe what God wrote in the only book that tells the truth of God, the Bible.”
I do believe, you see not because it’s convenient, for that’s hardly been the case. I believe because God has given me a peace and a joy in my heart that only He can give—a joy that’s hard to contain.
Oh, I did marry a Jewish boy, Joe. He too believes in Jesus, and how he came to the same conclusion I did is another story. Together, we’ve seen many Jews and gentiles come to know the Jewish Messiah. I could write many more pages about our 46 years of marriage and ministry for the Messiah, but the editor says it’s better to get some letters asking more about what God has done to and through Clara Rubin before I go on anymore. so I’ll wait for you to write and ask for more.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the life and ministry of Clara and Joe Rubin, and their influence on the next generation of Messianic Jews that would flower into the modern Messianic movement. Thank you for the lives they touched with your love, the welcome they gave to many, and the living faith they handed on to others. In Yeshua’s name we ask that our lives might similarly inspire and encourage others with the knowledge and love of You. Amen.
Clara’s Latka Recipe
Clara Rubin’s parents came from Russia to the United States in 1911. She was born five years later in Brooklyn, New York. Her family had fled the pogroms of Russia for this haven of freedom, but life was difficult and money was scarce. The medical dispensary in Williamsburg, run by Beth Sar Shalom, met the real physical needs of the Rubin family, and it also satisfied their spiritual longings. At the age of fourteen, Clara came to faith in Y’shua. She and her husband Joe, also Jewish, have spent their entire adult lives sharing the message of our Jewish Messiah with others.
While 82-year-old Clara Rubin is a missionary first and foremost, she is also a balaboosta in the kitchen, and it is her culinary skills we’d like to profile here. When I tried to get a recipe from her, it wasn’t easy. She told me there is a saying in Yiddish that cooking is like an art and there aren’t any measurements. Clara assured me that she was a fine artist in the kitchen and couldn’t be pinned down to precise teaspoons of salt and cups of flour. She said, I’m an old timer cook. I go by what my tongue tastes and what my nose smells. I know. The things I cook, I eat. Whatever I make is my favorite. Young people, they eat junk today. I’m a fusspot. I can look at a recipe in a book and just see that it isn’t going to taste any good by the list of ingredients. I don’t want to look crazy by giving you an actual recipe.”
Clara’s grandson once made a commercial on video for a college project. He filmed Clara in the kitchen, holding a chicken over a pot, ready to make her famous chicken soup. He moved to a scene of a sick person in bed receiving a sip and getting out of bed immediately, instantly cured! When I asked Clara about her soup she reminisced, “We used to buy live chickens; now all you get is the dead stuff in the stores. You could smell the soup five blocks away! I don’t understand what’s with the bouillons?!”
When I asked her about a latke recipe for our readers in time for Hanukkah, she responded, “Anybody can make latkes. You just grab a few potatoes, rub ’em together and don’t cook them in too much oil. You can make latkes from any leftovers you have in the fridge as long as you use an egg and maybe some bread crumbs. Try cabbage, rice, zucchini—whatever. And when you make the applesauce, just use a little water and some lemon so they don’t turn brown. Sweeten it with honey. It should be thick and smooth like silk.”
Clara has given us one of her winter warmers that should more than fill your tummies. Here’s a taste of her kasha varnishkes:
“Get a box of whole kasha, not the broken stuff. Put in an egg; use more eggs if you use more kasha (like when you’re making extra for your grandchildren to take back to college; this freezes well.) Stir it in a Teflon frying pan until it’s dry, then cover it generously with water and boil it until it’s soft, not mushy. Then drain it. Boil the bowtie pasta separately and drain it. In another pan, fry onions in chicken fat or vegetable oil. Mix everything together and spice with salt and pepper to taste. It takes a lot more than a pinch of salt.”
Clara’s family loves her cooking so I hope you can make some of it part of your family tradition too. And just so you won’t be left high and dry for latkes this Hanukkah, here is a recipe from the Jews for Jesus Family Cookbook for “Award-Winning Potato Pancakes.” Melissa Moskowitz doesn’t like to brag, but she did win first place for this recipe at a Hanukkah party held by the Chicagoland area Messianic community. What won the judges over? “We loved the onions,” they said. Latkes are traditionally eaten with homemade applesauce or sour cream, but for some reason, her husband Jhan always eats his with ketchup.
- 4 large potatoes, scrubbed and left unpeeled
- 1 medium onion
- 3 small eggs or egg substitute
- 1/3 cup flour (for Passover these can be made with 1/4 cup matzo meal)
- salt and pepper to taste
- vegetable oil
- applesauce or sour cream (or ketchup)
Grate potatoes with the onion, either by hand (if you have the energy and the knuckles!) or in the food processor, using the steel blade. You should have a mixture the consistency of coarsely chopped apples for applesauce. Place potatoes and onions in colander to drain over sink. When drained, put mixture in large bowl and mix in eggs and flour (or matzo meal). Season with salt and pepper. Pour vegetable oil to 1/4″ depth in heavy skillet. Heat until very hot, but not smoking. Spoon batter into skillet, flattening pancakes into 3″ ovals. Fry until deep golden brown and crisp on both sides. Repeat with all the mixture. Lay several newspapers on kitchen counter; cover with several paper towels and place cooked pancakes on this to drain. Serve immediately or if you have to, keep warm in a 400 degree oven (they will lose some of their crispness, but will taste just as good). Makes 24 latkes. Serve with applesauce or sour cream (or ketchup).
From Clara Rubin, and the rest of us aspiring balaboostas at Jews for Jesus, a healthy and hearty holiday season!
CLARA RUBIN – A Legacy
I first met Clara Rubin on a hot Summer night in 1974. It was August 15th, and I had been invited to a Bible study at the home of Richie & Patty Saxon, by Ralph & Kathy Curtin, long time friends from High School. Kathy is Patty’s sister. I didn’t go there with the intent of learning about the Bible. Truth be told, I had never even opened a Bible before, didn’t own one and God had no part in my life. I went there because I heard that the people running the Bible study were Jews who believed in Jesus. Well, everyone knows that Jews don’t believe in Jesus so these people must be some kind of a cult, I figured, so I went there, in my arrogance, with the intent of exposing these frauds, not knowing a thing about scripture.
When I walked into that room full of people, I had no idea what to expect, but I was ready for battle. Immediately, from across the room, this short, plump women in a house dress locked her eyes on me like radar. She made a bee line right to me, wrapped her arms around my neck and planted a big kiss on my cheek. She said, “Darling, do you know Jesus”? My hard heart just melted. As I stammered trying to find words to say, she sat me down and shared the gospel with me. No deep theology; no fancy words; no long Bible quotes, none of which I would have understood anyway. Sho told me how much Jesus loved me, how lost I was, and how he died for me. I knew instantly that what she was telling me was the truth, by the love that was coming from her. I gave my heart to the Lord that very night and she gave me my first Bible as a gift. A paperback King James. Little did I know that this was the beginning a wonderful, 40 year frindship with my Yiddisha Momma, and the start of a spiritual journey with Jesus! She was a friend, a mentor and a teacher by example.
I remember asking her once, “what is the best way to reach Jews with the gospel”! She looked at me and said, “Ronnie, do you know why Jews have big noses”! I said, er, no! She answered, “because we can smell the love”! She had just shared with me the secret of her amazing ministry. Go with love! I was thinking of a verse of scripture that best describes Clara and the first verse that came to mind is John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” I knew Clara was a disciple of Jesus.
Clara did not just pay lip service, she lived it! While going through a rough time where I was unable to work because if illness, and money was very tight, Clara and Joe would stop over my home every week bringing milk and other staples to help feed the kids, and always slipped some money into my pocket, even though her and Joe were just getting by themselves. If someone had a need, spiritually or physically, Clara gave from her heart. She walked the walk!
Clara opened up her home for weekly Bible studies taught first by Raymond Cohen and then By Marty Fromm, where I gained a foundation in the Word of God and a love for the Jewishness of the scriptures and the Jewish people. While Clara had a burning desire to bring the gospel to her Jewish brethren, she had a burden to reach everyone with the good news about Yeshua. Countless lives were touched by that little Bible study and many found salvation through the words of truth spoken there. When the time came to sing to the Lord, Clara would be up singing the loudest, dancing and encouraging everyone to be joyful, praising God continually.
Every year we would have a Passover Seder, usually in the basement of a local church that was a friend of the ministry! Sometimes we would have 100 or more people attend. For days ahead of time, Clara would single handedly make gallons of motzoh ball soup, clean and prepare chickens, and pretty much cook for the entire seder by herself in her little kitchen. She made a great motzoh ball!
As the result of Clara & Joe’s ministry, in addition to so many coming to faith, many pastors, missionaries and ministries were birthed. While Clare lived a humble and modest life, she must be a spiritually wealthy lady in heaven today because she lived Matthew 6:20, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:”
About 3 years ago, I felt let to go to Florida to visit Clara, and my wife wanted to meet this lady I was always talking about. I believe she was 93 years old at the time. My wife and I went to lunch with Clara and Ilayna to a local Chinese restaurant. Even at 93, Clara still loved to eat. When we were done and trying to leave, Clara made two of the Chinese waiters sit down with her as she shared Jesus with them. That was Clara! Anyone who came into her company heard the gospel. I have never known anyone who was as bold for Messiah, and she was about as close as you could come to a modern day Paul! 🙂
Because of love her for Jesus and her love for me, Clara led me to salvation and blessed me with 40 years of friendship and godly love, and for that I am eternally grateful. At the end of her life and ministry, most of those she had ministered to were no longer around, but she held fast to her Messiah and ministered until her last breath. I know the first words she heard in Heaven were “well done thou good and faithful servant”. The last words she said to me just a week ago were, “I’ll see you up there”! I look forward to the time when I will see her again in Heaven and will fellowship with her for eternity. Love you Clara!
In Memoriam – Joe Rubin Chosen People Ministries is saddened by the passing of retired missionary Joseph Rubin. Joe came to the Lord through the witness of Clara Krop,whom he later married on October 10,1937. They settled in Brooklyn and are especially well remembered for their work with children at the Mission’s Summer Camping Program. Joe and Clara opened a branch of the Mission in their home on Long Island in 1956.They labored there until their retirement in 1983. One of Joe’s former co-workers remembers the impact of Joe and Clara’s ministry: “Ridicule and persecution did not discourage them from their witness.They exhibited their love for the Lord with a holy boldness in life and word.” Joe Rubin will be greatly missed.
Steve Cohen: I’ve known Clara for seemingly ages. She and her husband Joe, were models of faithfulness to me! Clara unashamedly gave bold witness to her faith for many years as a missionary. In retirement Clara saw each interaction with another person as her chance to tell them of Y’shua. When we lived close together in Florida, I would regularly visit Clara to pray and encourage her. I never came empty handed! She loved chocolate cream pie, and there was a place that made them just blocks from her apartment. For many years, Clara just wanted to go home. Now her prayers have been answered.
A 97-year-old Jewish missionary who inspired Jews for Jesus’ founder was called home to heaven on March 4. Probably the oldest living person ever to spend her entire adult life telling Jewish people about Jesus, Clara Rubin was definitely one of the most fearless … and lovable.
Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1916, Clara Rubin embraced Yeshua (Jesus) as her Messiah at the age of 14 and immediately began telling everyone she could about her discovery. As an adult, Clara became a missionary with the agency that had led her to faith, Chosen People Ministries (formerly ABMJ).
It was through that agency that brand new missionaries Moishe and Ceil Rosen met Clara. Ceil recalls, “She was relentless in preaching the gospel but she always showed a lot of love. When Clara grabbed you and hugged you, you knew you were hugged!”
Ceil continued, “She was a mother figure to us when we began in ministry, always there when we needed her. She and [her husband] Joe [also a Jewish believer in Jesus, pictured here with Clara] were really anchors of the work at that time. They were an example of unselfish and fearless service – nothing phased Clara! She was always outspoken about her faith. And she was a real inspiration to Moishe.”
Clara continued to inspire all the Jews for Jesus who knew her with her love for the Lord, her direct approach and a sense of humor that was … well, it was just Clara. We had many opportunities to partner with her; one year she showed up at one of our Passover banquets with eighteen of her relatives! That night, her great-granddaughter prayed to receive the Lord.
We at Jews for Jesus were saddened when Clara’s daughter Ilayna Klayman (also a believer in Jesus) told us of Clara’s passing. This world has lost a unique and shining testimony for Jesus. But Clara’s back with her Joe, and even more, she’s with her Jesus. Enjoy your well-deserved reward, dear Clara!