Henry and Louis Rubenstein,
our family's union activists

Henry Rubenstein, Morris' brother, and Louis Rubenstein, Morris' uncle, were both skilled tailors, and they were both union activists.

Louis kept a gun

Louis, the youngest of Morris' uncles to come to this country, was an involved union organizer, according to Joan Herstik Rubenstein, who was married to his grandson, Phillip. She revealed in a telephone interview from her home in Van Nuys, California, that Louis was said to have kept a gun for protection again thugs, who were routinely hired by business owners to fend off unionization. 

The roaring '20s

In the '20s, the unionizing scene was like a gangster movie, according to Joan. The gun, she said, was handed down from Louis to his son, Abe ("Ruby"), and then to Ruby's youngest son, Phillip, who passed away in 1993.  "It's probably still amongst his things," Joan said. No mention was ever made of Louis having used the gun.

Louis and Sarah Rubenstein posed for the photograph above on October 29, 1927, the day their son, Abe ("Ruby") and Ceil Hirschoff married, according to Anita Rubenstein Silverman, who is the widow of Ruby's and Ceil's older son, Arthur.

[One of her sons revealed in 2002 that there were actually two guns in his grandfather's things.]  The subject is of interest  because our family is extremely non-violent.

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The young Henry Rubenstein  From the Sam Varonok album

California bound

Henry was so successful in his unionizing activities that the ILGWU sent him to California to continue his work there.

Henry was also a socialist

"My mother talked about Henry being active in the union, and also, that he was a socialist," said his niece, Marion Shapiro Patashnick. Her mother, Esther Minnie Rubenstein Shapiro of North Adams, Mass., was Henry's older sister.

The Triangle fire

Anyone in the family who goes through the Ellis Island museum exhibit about the labor movement can't help but think of the contribution that Henry and Louis Rubenstein made to their new country. The devastating fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911 is represented by a photograph showing a long line of open coffins in which lie the bodies of young women asphyxiated in the blaze. Of the 148 people who lost their lives in the burning sweatshop, most were young women. Shown filing by the coffins are the families seeking to reclaim the bodies of loved ones who died trying to escape the fire.