every Jew a
Jews Alive with a
-- Slogans of Irv Rubin's
Jewish Defense League
Los Angeles, California, Saturday, January
Militant Protector or Terrorist?
Bomb-plot suspect Irv Rubin has been
denounced by many, but some say he's a
defender of his people.
By NITA LELYVELD
FOR years, Irv Rubin
has been getting into people's faces,
drowning out their speeches with shouting,
picketing their meetings. A tall, beefy
man with a voice that carries, he
frequently uses a bullhorn to make it
carry farther. Often, too, when shouting
fails, he shoves and punches.
Rubin, 56, learned his combative ways
early, fighting name-callers on the
streets of Montreal. Later, he found a
home in the radical Jewish Defense League,
which he joined a few years after its
founding by a New York rabbi, Meir
Kahane, in 1968.
1985, Rubin has been national chairman of
the JDL, a group whose message has always
been militant. Its motto "Never Again"
refers to the Holocaust. To prevent
another one, Kahane and his followers
argued, Jews must be armed and ready to
defend themselves by any means necessary.
Hence the group's slogans: "For every Jew
a .22," and "Keep Jews Alive with a
Now, Rubin finds himself behind bars.
He and fellow JDL member Earl
Krugel will be arraigned today on
charges of plotting to bomb the King Fahd
Mosque in Culver City and a field office
of Lebanese American Rep. Darrell E.
Issa (R-Vista). Both Rubin and Krugel
are expected to plead not guilty. Federal
authorities, who have tried to connect
Rubin with violent attacks in the past,
accuse him of conspiring to commit the
same sort of terrorist acts for which he
has long blamed -- and reviled --
He was isolated long before his arrest,
denounced by Jewish leaders all over the
country as representing no one.
Rubin's lawyers declined requests for
him to be interviewed at the federal
detention center, where he's been held in
solitary confinement since his Dec. 11
arrest, and he has been denied bail.
His wife, Shelley, who spoke on
his behalf, said that Rubin's belligerent
manner helps him reach his objectives --
but that her husband of 21 years, the
father of her two sons, is a decent,
innocent man who drops everything to
donate blood and risks crashing his car to
rescue stray animals on the freeway.
"He may have a gruff exterior, but
people who know Irv know he's a lover, not
a fighter," she said, adding, "but on the
outside, he's a fighter."Waging
a Fight on a Shoestring
He does his fighting on a shoestring
budget. He lives in a Monrovia condo for
which he pays no rent because it's part of
a family trust. He doesn't work -- except
occasionally, serving legal papers. His
wife says he sometimes gets paid to give
speeches. Mostly though, he and his family
live off checks from his wife's
Their sons, ages 12 and 20, don't have
health insurance. His wife canceled the
newspapers he reads to save money after he
was arrested. They're asking for donations
to pay Rubin's legal fees.
dues and donations to the JDL pay for
Rubin's protests, his wife said. A
neighbor said he regularly sees Rubin
drive home in donated cars, which he
Still, one way or another, he
frequently makes his way around the
country -- to show up as the lone opening
day protester outside the Holy Land
Experience, a Christian theme park in
Orlando, Fla., run by a Jew bent on
converting people to Jesus, or to plant
himself outside the compound of the Aryan
Nations in Idaho.
In Orlando and other places, leaders of
local Jewish organizations say his
protests simply draw attention to things
best ignored or dealt with more
comment: The Anti-Defamation
League run by Abe Foxman
(below) on a $100
million dollar annual budget is
dedicated to smearing the names
of those whose views it opposes,
and suppressing free speech. The
ADL took a fat bribe to persuade
President Clinton to pardon
The fighting words of the JDL set it
apart from other Jewish organizations, as
has the JDL's view of itself -- as the
only group with the guts to do whatever it
takes to protect Jews. At local Jewish
festivals, Rubin and other JDL members
often hand out leaflets, urging Jews to
support them and not the mainstream
League, a much older group with a
similar abbreviated name.
"The irony is that he's spent half his
career harassing other Jews," said
David Lehrer, who until recently
was the longtime western regional director
of the ADL.
In a 1978 news conference, Rubin
offered a $500 reward to anyone who
"kills, maims or seriously injures" a
member of the American Nazi Party -- an
offer which prompted solicitation of
murder charges that were dismissed years
On the JDL Web site, he proudly
displays video footage of a brawl he got
into with Ku Klux Klansmen on the Jerry
Springer show. Proudly, too, Rubin says
he's lost count of his arrests, which
number more than 40.
In 1985, federal authorities named
Rubin a suspect in the bombing death of
Alex Odeh, regional director of the
American Arab Anti-Discrimination
Committee, in his office in Santa Ana.
Rubin was never charged and denied
involvement. But he publicly celebrated
Odeh's murder, which remains unsolved.Meanwhile,
he's pushed buttons.
After the 1999 shooting at the Jewish
Community Center in Granada Hills,
thousands came together to speak out
against violence. But Rubin, who
interrupted Gov. Gray Davis' speech
with shouts, had a different message --
against gun control and in favor of armed
"It wasn't the Aryan Nations. It was
Irv Rubin, screaming like a maniac. . . .
It was disgusting," Lehrer said.
Under Kahane, who left the organization
in the 1980s and was assassinated in 1990,
the JDL was very vocal and growing. Its
main cause was fighting Soviet
mistreatment of Jews. Shelley Rubin
contends that there are still thousands of
members in JDL chapters across the country
and around the world. But federal
authorities say the group's strength long
ago dwindled to perhaps a few dozen
Without the cause of Soviet Jewry,
"there's no there there," added Lehrer.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev
Yaroslavsky, one of many local leaders
who describe Rubin as the fringe of the
fringe, said, "There are more teams in the
American League than there are members of
the Jewish Defense League."
Shelley Rubin said the small turnouts
at her husband's protests signify
"He's learned you don't need to have a
whole mass of people demonstrating," she
said. "If there's a problem, he knows how
to draw attention to that problem. He has
refined the method of demonstrating."
Refined is not the word Yaroslavsky
"I've been in a situation before where
Irv and the Krugel boys would get into
shoving matches with other Jews," he said,
referring to Earl and twin brother
Barry Krugel, 59. Yaroslavsky added
that he once decided not to bring up gun
control when speaking at Studio City's
Temple Beth Hillel because Rubin was in
the audience. So were a lot of senior
citizens, he said.
"He gets into fisticuffs with people
nearly twice his age. I've seen it with my
own eyes," said Yaroslavsky, who was in
college when he first met Rubin. "I'd like
to think that in his early days, Irv's
heart was in the right place. But I think
they all have a certain fascistic streak
to them. If you don't agree with them, you
get punched in the nose. There's no room
for dissent, no room for another point of
Diane Jacobs, 80, of Beverly
Hills, sees it differently. A
who worked in the resistance and
whose entire family
was killed by the Nazis, she has
known Rubin since the 1970s. Like him, she
has little good to say about Arabs.
Someone has to take a stand, she said.
message is stand up. Stand up and don't
take any garbage from anybody. Don't take
garbage from the bigots. Stand up for
yourself," she said. "A lot of Jews, they
think they're supposed to turn the other
cheek, to just roll over. Honey, if I had
done that back in Germany, I'd be 6 feet
under with the rest of the people."
Jacobs said she's seen Rubin clean up
desecrated synagogues and Jewish
cemeteries. She applauds his style of
protest, even the shouting.
"The law says we have freedom of
speech. Nobody said anything about freedom
of hearing," she said.
The Rubins are against the Middle East
peace process and want the Palestinians
out of Israel, said Shelley Rubin.
"Irv has always said that he would like
all the Palestinians to come here to live
and let Israel be Israel. He doesn't have
anti-Arab feelings," she said.
"But I will not try to hide the fact
from you that we feel very threatened by
the spread of Islam in this country. We
believe that there's an Islam that they
don't want you to know about, and that any
religion that says that Jews are a lowly
people who have to be subjugated and
humiliated, we've got a problem with
In a telephone conversation, she later
expanded on those thoughts.
"We see that the Muslims are trying to
take over the country. That's what they
do. They take over a place and then they
want to put their own laws into
Included on List of Hate
Such rhetoric is the reason that
Brian Levin, director of the Center
for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal
State San Bernardino, put the JDL logo --
a fist and a star -- on his list of
That decision prompted Rubin to contact
him repeatedly in April and May of last
year, Levin said. At first, Rubin calmly
tried to argue that the JDL wasn't a hate
group. When Levin didn't buy that, Rubin
"got extremely combative," he said.
He refused to swear off violence, one
of the requirements for removal from the
hate list, Levin said.
"He's like a lot of the other
extremists I study. He has a very narrow
world view, very rigid," said Levin, a
former New York policeman, who is
"People like me, he's already written
off. I'm as bad as the rest of the world.
In the end, he called me a lousy Jew, the
same kind of sellout Jew who was
responsible for the Holocaust," said
Levin, whose father was a
war in Hitler's Germany. Shelley
Rubin said her husband, whose
working-class family came to Southern
California from Montreal when he was 15,
readied himself for his cause as a child
"living in the shadow of the
"Irv was a little boy and someone
called him a dirty Jew. He must have been
6 or 7," she said. "He ran home crying and
his mother said, 'Oh no, you go back and
you fight.' "
The fighting spirit of the JDL
attracted Shelley Rubin when she was a
teenager in the San Gabriel Valley. In a
scrapbook she kept, she pasted stories
about the JDL's campaign for Soviet Jews.
She admired Rubin from afar, she said.
They met when she joined the JDL in 1979
and were married a year later.
In the 1980s, Shelley Rubin worked
briefly as a writer and editor for the
B'rith Messenger, she said.
Now, she works behind the scenes for the
JDL, organizing and writing much of the
content on the Web site.
When the FBI searched Rubin's home Dec.
12, even she was surprised by Rubin's
arsenal, she said.
Agents found eight
guns in the Rubins' bedroom. All
were licensed and kept in cases, she said
-- but she'd only known about one. FBI
officials could not be reached for
The FBI alleges that Rubin chose the
mosque and Issa's office as bombing
targets and that he decided when the
bombings would take place. According to
the FBI complaint, Rubin spoke of letting
people know that the JDL was active in a
Talking about the indictment, which is
based on FBI surveillance tapes of a JDL
member-turned-informant, Shelley Rubin
sees another plot -- hatched by people who
have long wanted to silence her husband.
She angrily speaks about Lehrer for
speaking out so quickly against Rubin
after his arrest.
Her husband has devoted his life to
protecting his people, she said.
"He would rather not do it. He would
rather there be no need for the JDL. But
if Irv Rubin's not doing it, who is going
to?" she said.
"He learned the lesson of the
Holocaust, that you have to fight back.
That's what he does. But these charges are
so wrong, so out of
2002 Los Angeles Times
items on this website:
grand jury indicts JDL members in bomb
Angeles Times: Militant JDL Members
Arrested by FBI
dossier: Origins of
recalls JDL's record
say never again