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Jewish Defense League's Rubin Is Eulogized by Rabbi as a Hero

Mourners gather in Sylmar for burial. Activist's family again calls for probe of the events surrounding his death in custody.

November 18, 2002|Jeff Gottlieb | Times Staff Writer

Irv Rubin was eulogized Sunday as a hero who dedicated himself to helping other Jews and to fighting anti-Semitism.

"For the last three decades, Irv Rubin's name has been synonymous with caring, with helping, with doing," Rabbi Tzvi Block told the 175 people who gathered at Sholom Memorial Park in Sylmar. "His entire life was for the Jewish people. He was a Jewish hero, and it will be noted for time to come."

Although he wore a yarmulke in public, Rubin was not a religious man, Jewish Defense League spokesman Brett Stone said. Still, he was buried following Jewish traditions, in an unadorned pine casket. An electric menorah behind it cast its light on the casket.

Rubin died Thursday, nine days after authorities say he tried to kill himself in the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles by slitting his throat with a jail-issue safety razor and then jumping 18 feet to a concrete floor.

Rubin, 57, had been held without bail for 11 months for allegedly planning to bomb a Culver City mosque and the office of Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Vista), who is Lebanese American.

The JDL's leader for 17 years had pleaded not guilty, as had his co-defendant and chief aide, Earl Krugel. Krugel remains in jail. Krugel's brother, Barry, is the JDL's weapons instructor.

Rubin never was known for his subtlety. He once offered $500 to anyone who killed a member of the American Nazi Party and had fought with Ku Klux Klan members on TV.

Mainstream Jewish leaders denounced him and said his organization's membership was minuscule.

But the service portrayed a man dedicated to helping anyone who needed him, and didn't mention his clashes with other Jewish leaders.

Block, whose voice quavered with emotion at times, praised Rubin's work. "Who else did anybody call in Los Angeles if they had a problem or trouble?" the rabbi said.

The most inflammatory language came in a statement from Krugel that his lawyer read. Krugel denounced the Jewish establishment, saying its leaders "gave new meaning to the words weak and timid," and called them "fearful myopic dwarfs."

What seemed to be most on mourners' minds, though, was how Rubin had died. In a statement distributed to the news media before the funeral, his family continued to call for an independent investigation into his death.

There were whispers of conspiracy -- why didn't cameras inside the jail record his leap? -- talk of prison enemies, such as Muslims and members of the racist Aryan Nations who might have wanted to kill him. People asked why someone known as a fighter, with a wife and two children, would commit suicide, which Jewish law prohibits.

"I'm saying he was killed," Bill Maniaci, a retired police officer from Reno who is the new JDL leader, said after the funeral.

Federal authorities have said no one was within 15 feet of Rubin when he went over the balcony. Rubin's lawyer, Peter Morris, has said Rubin had lost 60 pounds while imprisoned and had seen a prison psychologist.

The mourners were friends and family and some people who knew of Rubin and wanted to pay their respects. One of those who attended was conservative KABC radio talk show host Larry Elder. Rubin had once led a demonstration to ensure that Elder's show remained on the air.

"I thought of him as a courageous champion for what he believed in," said Elder, wearing a lapel pin with the U.S. and Israeli flags. "I thought of him as a hothead who often led with his mouth, but not someone who would kill people."

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