The anti-vaccine crowd generally runs out of scientific evidence after 4 or 5 seconds. That means they move on to bigoted hate attacks next. And after that, they move onto heady questions like who is the father of Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a frequent contributor to this website.
Public relations people will advise their clients to never comment on internet gossip, because it just continues the conversation, before it dies out. But this is so funny, I can’t help myself, because the Skeptical Raptor is one snarky dinosaur, and he thrives on feasts of snarkiness.
And there’s nothing that deserves more snark than lunatic anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists pushing that Professor Reiss’ family contains the swine flu vaccine inventor. Or a demon banker.
Zut alors. Maybe she’s related to a random lawyer named Rubinstein.
Who is Dorit Rubinstein Reiss?
Well, you could just look up her article on Wikipedia. Now there is a trope that Wikipedia is worthless, and I will admit I don’t think much of the online encyclopedia, especially some of the more worthless science articles. However, one thing Wikipedia does well is biographies of living persons. There are people who watch over it carefully, and if you try to edit in something like “the father of Dorit Rubinstein Reiss owns all of the vaccine companies on the planet,” it’s going to be deleted within a few seconds of posting it.
Since, as far as I can tell, Dorit is a living person, the Wikipedia article is accurate. She is a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law. Yes, it’s part of the University of California system, one of the premier public university systems in the USA, possibly the world.
She has an undergraduate degree in law from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has a PhD in jurisprudence and social policy (in case you’re missing the point, this is the basis of her expertise in vaccines) from the University of California at Berkeley, which is, by most measurements, one of the elite universities on the planet.
If I could digress for a moment. Well, I’m the writer of this article, so I digress whenever I want. Deal with it. Please.
It’s damn hard work to get a PhD in a complex area from a top university. It’s not just taking classwork, and getting a passing grade (that’s part of it, of course). It’s doing research, which must be unique – this part is often very hard, because you’ve got to read through hundreds of papers and other dissertations to make sure you’re not repeating research on a topic or question that’s already been done.
The research can take up to 4 years. It might require lots of travel, tons of reading, experiments, and more things than I could discuss in a reasonable amount of time.
Then you write a dissertation, which are generally the size of a book. it’s got graphs, photos, details of the research, results, bibliography, and again, more than I could discuss in a reasonable amount of time.
Then you have to defend your dissertation. It’s usually in front of faculty of your graduate program, and it may include other faculty and grad students.
And while doing this, almost every PhD candidate in the USA is also required to teach, since the expectation is that most PhD’s will eventually need to teach.
My point in this dissertation about PhDs (get it?) is that it’s not easy. It doesn’t mean you’re the greatest expert on your topic on the planet, but the bar is set high to get the degree (especially from a highly respected university). You generally are an expert within the field you studied, and if you’re dissertation and research is well done, it can form the basis of new knowledge in a field.
Back to Professor Rubinstein Reiss. She is an expert in social policy and the law. Although I don’t personally subscribe to the appeal to authority fallacy, when an individual establishes a reputation through published evidence that is reviewed by their peers, I generally default to their position within the narrow parameters of their knowledge.
I don’t know crap about astrophysics. But if Neil DeGrasse Tyson tells me that a black hole bends light through massive gravity, I’m going to defer to his expertise on the topic.
Moreover, Dr. Rubinstein Reiss is a tenured professor of law at UC Hastings, a position which is considered to be the pinnacle of achievement in the academic world. The vetting of individuals that are under consideration for a full Professor title is challenging and detailed. In other words, her peers have judged her research activities and published work to meet the high standards of the faculty at UC Hastings.
If there are anti-vaccination activists who attacks her by any number of strawman or ad hominem attacks, demeaning her education and faculty position, it just means I get to mock them mercilessly, up to and including their utter lack of education in comparison.
I think I digressed again.
The father of Dorit Rubinstein Reiss
Before we start, let’s look at the name, Rubinstein, which seems to be the anti-vaccination crowd’s method of trying to attach Dorit to someone with the same surname.
Rubinstein is a relatively common surname for eastern European Jews. It’s not quite “Smith” or “Jones” in the English-speaking world, but close enough. According to Ancestry.com, Rubinstein is Jewish (Ashkenazic). It is an “ornamental” name composed of the German word for “ruby,” rubin, plus the German word for “stone,” stein.
Moreover, there are slight variations, like Rubin, Rubins, and Rubenstein that all have the same general onomastic origins.
Generally, Jews of that location and time period created Germanized surnames from the trade or other characteristics of the family. A Rubinstein in Warsaw, Poland may have been a jeweler. A Rubinstein in Berlin may have been a designer. And a Rubinstein in Kiev may have painted rubies on buildings. The names are the same, but the genealogy of each of those families are completely different.
You wouldn’t think this needs saying, but apparently, some anti-vaccine activists need it spelled out. This is the second time some anti-vaccine activists latched onto a person named Rubinstein and decided that he is Dorit Reiss’ father. So, as a public service, I decided to provide them with an important bit of information.
In other words, just to keep it simple for the anti-vaccine readers, Rubinstein is a common Jewish name, but not all Rubinsteins are related, even if you go back two or three centuries. I know, disappointing for those looking for conspiracies.
And unless I lost the reader along the way, obviously, not all Rubinsteins are Dorit’s father. I hope this helps out when you’re Googling “Rubinstein”.
Let’s look at one example –Dr. Ethan Rubinstein, who is a notable Canadian physician, whom the anti-vaccination gang have claimed is Dorit’s father. Why? Because he researches the H1N1 influenza subtype (called the swine flu by some), including how it affects various human populations. So it fits the anti-vaccine narrative to claim that a notable Canadian physician who researches vaccines would be Dorit’s father.
But Dr. Rubinstein (the Canadian physician) is mostly notable for trying to find the horrific Nazi physician Josef Mengele in the Paraguayan jungle. Not as famous with regards to vaccines.
Now I’m sure that Dorit Rubinstein Reiss would be proud to be his daughter. Except she isn’t. Using minimal investigative skills, one can see that Ethan Rubinstein moved to Canada in 1985. Dorit Rubinstein was a child in Israel at the time. And started university in Israel in 1994. I mean if you’re going to use Google to do “your own research,” at least put in some effort to do it right.
As a public service to the anti-vaccine conspiracists, here is a list of other people who are not Dorit’s father.:
- Amnon Rubinstein. An Israeli politician who is not Dorit’s father.
- Anton Rubinstein. A famous Russian pianist. He died in the late 1800s, so definitely isn’t Dorit’s father.
- Arthur Rubinstein. One of the greatest pianists ever, and an immigrant to the USA from Poland. Not Dorit’s father, and isn’t even related to Anton above, also a pianist.
- Dave Rubinstein. A singer in the hardcore punk band, Reagan Youth, which used to compare Young Republicans to the Hitler Youth. Maybe I should download a few tracks. And he’s not Dorit’s father, since he was about 10 years old when she was born.
- David Rubinstein. Another classical pianist, unrelated to the other classical pianists mentioned above – and not Dorit’s father, since he was born and lived in New York City, far away from Dorit.
- Elyakim Rubinstein. An Israeli Supreme Court justice. He is an attorney and has four daughters – none of them named Dorit.
- Robert Rubinstein. A Professor of Anthropology and Professor of Law at Syracuse University. Other than being a professor of Law at a respected university, he has no relationship to Dorit.
- The name partners at the law firm of Rubinstein and Rubinstein, Asher and Kenneth Rubinstein. Both are from New York, and are far too young to have been Dorit’s father. They could be her brothers, if she had been born and raised in New York City.
- All the Rubinsteins who are listed when you search on Google, “rubinstein” and “vaccines” except for Dorit Rubinstein Reiss herself.
- All the Rubinsteins when you Google “rubinstein” and “canada”. And that includes John Rubinstein, a Medical researcher at the University of Toronto.
- She’s also not related to Pindar, the Greek Poet. But that’s another story.
Who is the father of Dorit Rubinstein Reiss?
What’s the relevance of knowing who it is? Just because the anti-vaccination cult is looking for some conspiracy, doesn’t mean there’s actually one to be found. It would be only relevant if her father were the CEO or some other top executive of a pharmaceutical company. And as far as I could find, there isn’t a Rubinstein that has any executive or board position in any pharmaceutical company.
I hope this helps out everyone.
By the way, I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Rubinstein family. However, I am a fan of hamentaschen, I know what a dreidel does, I have read a prayer at Seder, and I have a UCLA and a USC kippeh. It’s an interesting story for another day.