Rubinow, Isaac Max

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RUBINOW, ISAAC MAX (1875–1936), U.S. economist and social worker. Rubinow was born in Grodno, Russia and arrived in New York City in 1893. He qualified at New York Medical College in 1898 but abandoned medical practice in favor of statistics and social work. During service with several U.S. government agencies, Rubinow concentrated on social insurance. Rubinow's efforts on behalf of social insurance brought about his appointment as executive secretary of the Social Insurance Commission of the American Medical Association (ama) in 1916. However, his efforts to commit the ama to state health insurance failed.

Rubinow believed that social insurance, national in scope, covering health, unemployment, accidents, and old age, and providing adequate benefits, should replace charity and other forms of voluntary relief. He held that it should provide assistance as a right and thus take care of human needs "without injury to the man's ego and self-respect and that of his family." In addition, Rubinow insisted on a compulsory state system because "the class which needs social insurance cannot afford it, and the class that can afford it does not need it." He prepared the report of the Ohio Social Security Commission in 1933, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him as a consultant to the committee that drafted the social security legislation of 1935.

Rubinow was also active in Jewish welfare work. From 1923 to 1928, he was director of the Jewish Welfare Society of Philadelphia, and from 1927 to 1932 he served as vice president of the National Conference of Jewish Social Service. He made it clear that poverty among Jews must not be isolated from conditions in America generally, calling for Jewish participation in national progressive social movements.

Rubinow was an active Zionist, and his medical training and administrative skills aided him from 1918 to 1922, when he directed the Hadassah Medical Unit in Palestine. Modern health services were established for the first time, malaria was reduced, and the care of children was stressed. Rubinow later served as executive director of the Zionist Organization of America (1928). From 1929 to 1936, he was secretary of B'nai B'rith and, after Hitler came to power, he was a leader in the movement to aid German Jews.

Rubinow's works include: Social Insurance (1913); The Quest for Security (1934); and "The Jewish Question in New York City," a paper published in ajhsp, 49 (1959), 90–136.


R. Lubove, The Struggle for Social Security, 1900–1935 (1968), index.

[Irwin Yellowitz]