It’s been quite a year for Dunwoody’s Alan Rubenstein. In March, he became the first American to hold the office of Grand Lodge president of the Hebrew Order of David. He was recently awarded the Shield of David, the highest honor bestowed by the Jewish fraternal organization, with 21 lodges in four countries.
Rubenstein is the 16th member of HOD to receive this award. It came as a complete surprise to him while attending a meeting of Atlanta’s four lodges, Carmel, Bezalel, Magen David and Shimshon, where they initiated a total of 22 brothers into the order.
“I just thought it was fantastic to be called on to address the new brethren and tell them how special it was for them to have so many brethren to welcome them,” he said. “I knew that very few people have gotten this award, and I had no idea I was getting it. I thought Stan (Klaff, past Grand Lodge president) came in from Johannesburg (South Africa) because I haven’t been well. We’ve become very close in the past 10 years. It was a complete shock.”
In presenting the award, Klaff cited Rubenstein’s vision and energy in bringing HOD to North America. HOD dates back to England in 1896 as the Hebrew Order of Druids, but it grew in South Africa from 1904, renaming itself as the Hebrew Order of David in 1916. When Rubenstein and other brothers of the order arrived in Atlanta from South Africa in the latter part of the 20th century, they saw the establishment of a lodge here as a way to spread their friendships and good works to all Jewish men in their new home.
Rubenstein teamed up with Atlantans Les Kraitzick and David Joss to build HOD in Atlanta, but encouraged by Klaff, they had a vision to expand in North America, where South African Jews had been resettling.
“Les pulled together 45 guys for our first ‘meeting,’” Rubenstein recalled. “Some had been HOD members in South Africa and others knew of it because their fathers or friends were involved.”
In 1999, they formed Lodge Carmel, and it began to expand to all Jewish men.
“South Africans understood what we were about through the ‘cheverschaft,’ or friendship experiences, and in performing community services,” Rubenstein said. “Americans understood HOD from their college fraternity experiences.”
Rubenstein proudly points out that Lodge Shimon Peres was established in Dallas, Texas, without any founding members who had previous exposure to HOD. During his term as president of the Governing Lodge of North America, lodges were added in Houston and San Diego, joining those in Toronto and Boca Raton.
“Alan shared our vision that a window of opportunity was opening in North America as it was closing in South Africa,” Klaff said. “The Shield of David recognizes his enthusiasm and tireless work to open new lodges in North America while serving our existing ones.”