Rubin Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Rubin Meaning
is some confusion about its origins. The
name appears to derive from the given
name of biblical times Reuven,
meaning “behold my son;” but it may equally share roots with the German
word rubin meaning “ruby” and a derivative of
the Latin rubeus or red.
Rubin in America, like the ornamental name Rubinstein
(derived from
ruby), tends to be a Jewish surname. However, there are some
non-Jewish origins of the Rubin name.

Rubin Resources on

Rubin Ancestry

The early Rubin surname in Europe was not Jewish in origin. Names
such as Richter Rubynus in 1240 and Nicolas Rubein in 1377 can be found
in medieval German charters. Ruby appeared in Reichenbach parish
records in Switzerland in 1559; and Rubin cropped up in Markdorf
in southern Baden and, more noticeably, in Lauterbrunnen
in the Swiss Berne canton. The numbers there are not that large,
about 1,000 in all of Switzerland today.

Rubin also appeared in northern Spain – Rubin de Celis from the village
of Celis
near Santander – and in Norrbottens Lan in northern Sweden.
The Spanish Rubins
crossed the Atlantic; but the Swedish Rubins did not.

The Rubin
arrivals in America
reflect mainly Jewish and Yiddish
origins – from the Jewish enclaves in Russia and Poland to Germany
itself. The peak years of immigration were from 1890 to 1910.

Dolhinov near Minsk in present-day Belarus are said to have been there
the early 1700’s. Barry Rubin’s 2012 book Children of Dolhinov
an account of the Rubins from Dolhinov in Poland who made it to America
in 1909. Dolhinov was later the site of
atrocities against the Jews in 1942
. The Rubins of Paszto in Hungary were also
up by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps. Most
of them died there. But Ted
survived, made it to America, and later fought for
America in the
Korean War.

. Rubin – and sometimes Rubinchik,
Rubinsohn, Rubinovsky, and other names as well – came to
America as Rubin. Rubin was one of the most
commonly registered names for Russian Jews arriving at Ellis
Island. The first Rubin might well have
been Avram Chaim Rubin from Rzeszow in Poland who came in 1858 and
settled after the Civil War in
San Francisco.

Many Rubins came to New York and they or their offspring made
their mark there. Among these Rubins have been:

  • Samuel Rubin from Bialystok in Russia who arrived with his
    parents in the early 1900’s. They opened a small
    dry goods store in Brooklyn. He as a young man was a committed
    Communist, but later earned a large fortune from his cosmetics firm
    Faberge Perfumes.
  • another Sam
    who started working in the movie
    concession business selling candy in the 1920’s at
    the age of twelve. He became known as Sam the Popcorn Man for
    introducing popcorn into New York theaters.
  • Robert
    a whizz-kid at Goldman Sachs and later US Secretary of the Treasury,
    who was
    born and raised in New York. His
    grandfather had arrived penniless from Minsk in Russia, but grew
    speculating in Florida real estate during the 1920’s.
    He lost it all in the Crash of 1929. Robert’s
    daughter-in-law Gretchen Rubin is the author of the best-selling The Happiness Project.
  • Donald
    Rubin who grew up in New York during
    the Depression of trade union parents. His
    interest in Himalayan art was sparked by a painting he
    saw in a
    Madison Avenue art gallery in the early 1970’s. He
    became a passionate collector and later founded the Rubin Museum of
    Art in New York.
  • Harvey
    Rubin who was born in Brooklyn and also grew up during
    the Depression years. He moved to
    Larchmont and became an independent book publisher.
    His son Jamie Rubin, married to the CNN
    reporter Christiane Amanpour, is a former diplomat and current editor
    of Bloomberg News.
  • and
    Rebecca Rubin, the
    replica doll which was created in 2009 by American Girl
    portray the early 1900’s
    Russian-Jewish immigrant girl.

Canada. Montreal was a
destination for many Jewish
immigrants and, for some Rubins, also a way station on their way to New
York. Montreal’s Jewish quarter recorded
54 Rubins in the 1911 census. Ruth Rubin
was born there in 1906, the daughter of Russian immigrants. She became an exponent of Yiddish folk songs.


Rubin Miscellany

Rubins from Lauterbrunnen.  The Rubins
in the Lauterbrunnen valley of the Bern highlands are said to belong to
one of the oldest
families of the valley.  The Annuary of
Lauterbrunnen of 1488 registered various bearers of the name, written
then as Ruby.  The name Ruby also appeared at Reichenbach
to the west of Lauterbrunnen in the same canton.

More recent Rubin records from Lauterbrunnen have been:

  • Johannes Rubin who was born in Lauterbrunnen in 1782.
  • Christian Rubin who married Alla von Allmen in Unterveen in the
    1820’s.  Their son Frederick emigrated to Canton, Ohio.
  • Jakob Rubin who married Susanna Althaus in Lauterbrunnen in
  • Another Christian Rubin who emigrated to America and married
    Johana Biery in Polk county, Iowa in 1876
  • and Johannes Rubin who married Maria von Allmen and who emigrated
    to New York around 1884.

Reader Feedback – Barry Rubin’s Children of Dolhinov.  Barry Rubin’s book Children
of Dolhinov 
is the story of Barry’s family in Dolhinov and
later in
the U.S.

Most of the people of Dolhinov did not die in Nazi camps.
They died right in Dolhinov itself in 1942, on
a day when the Nazis massacred about 3,000 Jews with help from some
residents.  Some of the Jews escaped Dolhinov and were conducted
through the
forest to safety in Russia by Russian partisans. It is a moving account.

I have
ancestors who perished in Dolhinov and some who came to the U.S. before

Robert McCormick (

Ted Rubin Did Get His Medal.  Tibor (Ted) Rubin was born in Paszto, a Hungarian town with a
Jewish population of 120 families.  He
was the son of a shoemaker and one of six children.
At age 13, he was transported by the Nazis to the Mauthausen
concentration camp in Austria.  Both his
parents and two of his sisters perished in the camps.
But he survived and was liberated two years
later by American combat troops.

Ted Rubin came to the United States in 1948 and
enlisted in the US Army, seeing it as a short cut to citizenship.  Two years later he was in Korea but came up
against an anti-Semitic army sergeant who sadistically volunteered
Rubin for
the most dangerous patrols and missions.
For various acts of bravery, Rubin was recommended four times
for the
Medal of Honor.  He never received any sort
of award because he was Jewish.  In
October 1950 Rubin was captured and spent the next 30 months in a
prisoner of war camp.  His fellow
prisoners who survived credited Rubin with keeping them alive.

In the end
it took a special act of Congress to award him the
Congressional Medal of Honor.  Not
until 2001 did Rubin
receive that medal from President Bush.

Rubins in America by Country of Origin

Country Numbers Percent
Russia    134    43
Germany     81    26
Poland     39    12
Austria     34    11
Switzerland     26     8
Total    314   100

There are some sketchy details as to the specific places where
Russian Rubins originated over the period 1900 to 1922.
The main locations and numbers were:

  • Minsk
    (Belarus), 36
  • Dolhinov (Belarus), 16
  • Vilna/Vilnius
    (Lithuania), 11
  • Radoshkowitz
    (Belarus), 8
  • and
    Bialystok (Poland), 6

Dolhinov lies halfway between Vilnius and Minsk.  Many
of the Rubins from Minsk were originally Rubenchiks. 

Rebecca Rubin, American Doll.  Rebecca Rubin
was the name chosen by American Girl
to portray a young immigrant girl in New York at the turn of the century

girls in Rebecca’s time lived in two worlds – the one their families
came from
and the America they all came to together.
Rebecca loves to celebrate the traditions of her Russian-Jewish
but she’s also excited about the new customs of New York City.  With a little creativity, she learns how to
stay true to her heart as she follows her dreams.”

an 18 inch tall
doll, debuted with American Girl in
2009.  She comes with a whole host of
and accessories.  In addition there is a
handsomely bound hardcover collection of novels about Rebecca Rubin.

Though the books mentioned
the family’s origins in an Orchard Street tenement, the Rubins by 1914
settled into an apartment in a sunny row house. Rebecca’s father owned
a shoe
store.  However, her recently-arrived
cousin Ana still lived in a crowded smelly tenement with her father
working in
a sweatshop.

Sam Rubin and Popcorn.  Movies had
prospered without popcorn until the Great Depression, when theater owners
scrambled to make up for reduced ticket prices by turning to “audible
The appetite of moviegoers was so great
that from 1934 to 1940, the nation’s annual popcorn harvest grew from 5
to 100 million pounds.

Sam Rubin had worked in the movie concession business selling
candy from
the age of twelve.

Marty Winter, who
worked with Sam for more than
sixty years, recalled that Mr. Rubin
had seen popcorn
being made in Oklahoma City on a visit around 1930 and started selling
it at
concessions he controlled when he returned to New York.

But Sam’s daughter said
it was not until the early 1950’s that he began to sell popcorn in a
major way.
At the time, his company, ABC Consolidated, had the refreshments
concession for
major movie chains in the New York metropolitan area.

Sam Rubin was very likely the first to
pop corn in machines on a widespread basis in theaters.  He
had begun by popping the kernels in Long
Island City and trucking the result to theaters, but quickly realized
that the
smell of popping corn would not exactly hurt sales.  Improvements
in machines had lessened the fire danger.



Rubin Names

  • Sam Rubin was best known for introducing popcorn into movie theaters in New York in the 1930’s.
  • Jerry Rubin was a social activist in the 1960’s and co-founder of the Yippie movement.
  • Robert Rubin was US Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration in the 1990’s.

Select Rubin Numbers Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 10,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Rubin and Like Jewish Surnames

The Jews were banned from England in 1290 and did not return there until the 1650’s, sometimes in the form of Portuguese traders.  They were to make their mark as merchants and financers in London and many families prospered.  There was another larger Jewish influx in the late 1800’s.

In America the early settlement of Sephardic Jews was in Charleston, South Carolina.  In the 19th century Ashkenazi Jews started to arrive from Germany.  Later came a larger immigration from a wider Jewish diaspora.  Between 1880 and 1910 it is estimated that around two million Yiddish-speaking Jews, escaping discrimination and pogroms, arrived from the Russian empire and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Some Jewish surnames reflect ancient Biblical names, such as Cohen and Levy.  Some have come from early place-names where Jews resided, such as Dreyfus (from Trier), Halpern (from Heilbronn) and Shapiro (from Speyer).  Many more surnames came about when Ashkenazi Jews were compelled by Governments to adopt them in the early 1800’s.  The names chosen at that time were often ornamental ones – Bernstein or Goldberg or Rosenthal for example.  Then the name could change on arrival in America at Ellis Island.  And finally anti-Semitism perceived could cause further changes to conceal Jewishness.

Here are the stories of some of the Jewish surnames that you can check out here.




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