Recently we sat down with OSRUI Alum Ira Rubenstein.
What are you doing professionally?
I am currently the Chief Digital and Marketing officer of PBS. I am focused on continuing PBS’ digital evolution through the development, implementation and scaling of world-class digital services and marketing content strategies. I also oversee the business intelligence group and lead comprehensive marketing programs to acquire, retain and engage audiences across platforms for the benefit of our PBS member stations.
When were you at OSRUI?
I believe I started in Tzofim Aleph in 1973 and then Tzofim Bet from 1974-77. If you are trying to remember me, I was the kid who always wore the Engineer Train Hat. Then onto Moshavah Aleph from 1977 to 1980. I skipped Avodah, because who wants to clean toilets all summer. 🙂 (Editor’s note #1: Apparently lots of teens do! Avodah has been so popular through the years that we had to begin offering it twice each summer.) Then I came back to be a Machon the summer of 1982 and a counselor in Kallah in 1983.
How did your summers at OSRUI influence you?
My summers at OSRUI were the best times of my life. I believe I learned more at camp than anywhere else in my childhood. I learned about working with others, planning events, helping people, thinking on your feet, and I learned what it felt like to be Jewish in a community with other Jews. Growing up in the suburbs of St. Paul, MN, I was the only Jewish student in my entire school. Yes, we participated in the temple and youth group, but it is different when you are at camp, living it day in and day out for weeks at a time.
Tell us about a fun camp fact or story.
I think the best camp story (and one Rabbi Steve Leder still tells to this day) happened the year he was the unit head and I was a counselor in Kallah. Steve liked to make events big at camp. Somehow Steve convinced the Milwaukee Zoo to loan us an elephant for the day to kick off the Maccabiah games. Well, most people would think that an elephant AT CAMP would be enough. But not Steve. Holly Gershanov Nelson (Nelson is her married name) got on top of the elephant and rode it through the camp. Meanwhile, along the route, I had strategically placed fireworks to go off as she rode through camp. We had smoke bombs, bottle rockets, firecrackers, sparklers, etc. … As Holly rode the elephant, I ran alongside and lit the fireworks. Amazingly, the elephant didn’t spook and throw Holly. (Editor’s note #2: Things have definitely changed over the years. While we do kick off Maccabiah with bagpipe players, Jewish motorcycle riders, and an occasional associate director jumping out of an airplane, there are no longer elephants or fireworks.)
Anything else you’d like to include?
I am still close with many of my camp friends and try to see them as often as I can.