Us oldies vividly remember Jerry Rubin as one of the most prominent radical social activists of the 1960s and 1970s, though few probably recall that he was a Cincinnati native. Rubin was born on July 14, 1938, the son of a bread delivery man and a homemaker mother, and grew up in Avondale, then an upscale Jewish neighborhood. Both of his parents died while he was a student at Walnut Hills High School, and he took over the task of caring for his 13-year-old brother Gil. He wanted to teach Gil about the world and decided to take him to India. When relatives protested and fought to gain custody of Gil, the teenagers went to Tel-Aviv instead. Rubin studied sociology for a year. Gil decided to stay and later moved to a kibbutz. After leaving Israel, Rubin visited Cuba despite a law forbidding Americans to travel there, and he was strongly inspired by an encounter with Che Guevara. He returned to Walnut Hills H.S., co-editing the school newspaper, The Chatterbox (for which J was a reporter a couple of decades later), and began writing high school sports results for the Cincinnati Post. Rubin received his B.A. in Sociology at the University of Cincinnati (my department, of course), then began graduate study at the University of California, Berkeley, but dropped out in 1964 to focus on social activism.
Rubin was a founding member of the Youth International Party (the Yippies), along with Abbie Hoffman. He was one of the main organizers of the anti-war demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago (a protest event that Vicki and her friend Kiera participated in, much to our parents’ dismay). Along with Hoffman, Tom Hayden, and others, Rubin was one of Chicago Eight who were indicted on charges of conspiracy and incitement to riot. Though all were found guilty on charges of incitement, the convictions were thrown out because of government misconduct (e.g., bugging the offices of the defense team). Later Rubin studied Erhard Seminars Training (EST) and became a practitioner in the growth potential movements of the 70’s and a successful businessman. He died at age 58 when he jaywalked on Wilshire Boulevard in L.A. and was hit by an oncoming car.
It’s a little hard to imagine one of the nation’s radical leaders coming out of conservative Cincinnati, but these were turbulent and unpredictable times. It makes me edgy to think back to them, with the tragedy of the Vietnam War, the rage and divisiveness in the society, widespread extreme disillusionment with the government, and the personal distress with how to deal with it all.