A Zionist Inside and Out: Karen Rubinstein
by Vernon Kurtz
In the Torah we read of the construction of the Tabernacle. The first thing we are told was created was an Ark in which was placed the two tablets of the Law.
The Torah tells us: "Overlay it with pure gold - overlay it inside and out - and make upon it a gold molding roundabout."
Our Rabbis were puzzled and asked the questions: If no mortal ever sees the inside of the Ark, what difference is it if there is gold inside? We can understand the importance of the gold being overlaid outside. But why he inside the Ark as well?
In the tractate of Yoma they state: "Any scholar who is not the same kind of person in private as in public is not a true scholar." In other words, you must show integrity, conscientiousness, and display the same set of ethics, morals and values as an individual and a public servant.
Karen Rubinstein is the epitome of this type of description in her work as a Jewish professional. Serving the American Zionist Movement for nearly 40 years as Executive Director, she achieved a tremendous amount for the sake of Israel and the Jewish people, always advancing our collective cause of fulfilling the Zionist dream. The youngest woman executive of a Jewish organization at the time, she learned to navigate the Zionist world as a a straight shooter, an innovator, and a motivator to making great things happen.
With Karen, what she said is what she did. Between meeting with world leaders and initiating programs and collaborations for the most important of causes, her commitment to the values and ideals of Zionism totally motivated her life for these many years, and it was seen through her work at the AZM. I have often wondered how Karen could have lasted so long in a Jewish organization and still have so many friends and so much hope, but it was this drive that enabled her to be so successful in bring people together, engaging the many arenas of activism as she has done in her years of service.
Karen worked conscientiously on all aspects of the goals of AZM with every fiber of her being. Her work was a labor of love event at the same time that it was challenging. Discussions with Karen are always honest and respectful, an admirable quality not always exhibited when dealing with divisive issues and conflicting opinions. Among the many ways she has impacted the Zionist movement, her resolve and her patience are her most admirable assets. Combined with a willingness to compromise and a commitment to succeed, Karen mastered the worthy struggle for these 40 years and leaves a mark on every one of us.
It is a pleasure to honor her contribution for International Women's Day!
Rabbi Vernon Kurtz is the Rabbi of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Illinois and is a past president of the American Zionist Movement, Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of 1500 Conservative Rabbis. Rabbi Kurtz currently serves as President of MERCAZ OLAMI, the World Organization of the Zionist arm of the Conservative Movement and is also on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency and serves as co-chairman of its FSU committee.