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Ditmas Park mourns slain cafe owner

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More than 60 Ditmas Park residents celebrated Josh Rubin’s life at Temple Beth Emeth of Flatbush on Sunday, as friends shared stories describing the slain cafe owner as a magnet: someone with ability to both attract and affect those he knew best.

Rabbi Heidi Hoover, stitching together remembrances she solicited from the community, said Rubin was one of those people who would leave an indelible impression.

“Josh was so passionate, and sincere and gentle,” Rabbi Hoover explained during her eulogy. “Those who met him did not forget him.”

Paul Badger and Nancy Owen, Rubin’s neighbors when he lived in Providence, Rhode Island, traveled to Brooklyn to be part of the memorial even though they hadn’t seen the young businessman in years.

“Our son loved him,” said Badger, recalling a night he and his wife asked Rubin to baby-sit their son and came home to find the living room in shambles. Josh and their son were both on the floor, zooming remote control cars around the room. “He was very fun and goofy.”

But not all tales told on Sunday were innocent. Some of them were downright bawdy!

Keith Murray, who attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with Rubin, will never forget the first time he met the Lawrence Avenue resident it was a raunchy dorm room tale, he explained.

Rubin had been friends with one of Murray’s roommates. He stopped by Murray’s room to edit a video he was working on for class one day, but the video, Murray quickly realized, was of Rubin putting ketchup and mustard on one of his “appendages” —— the only one that could fit in a hot dog bun, he said.

“Josh was like this great big magnet,” Murray said. “He drew people in, but he was also a magnet who could be flipped around, and repel people.”

Rubin vanished from Ditmas Park on Halloween, only to be found shot to death less than 12 hours later on a desolate stretch of road in rural Pennsylvania. Whoever killed him went to great lengths to cover his tracks and apparently burned Rubin’s remains to delay the investigation. Cops didn’t report that Rubin had been murdered until Dec. 21.

Rubin was laid to rest in Rhode Island two weeks ago. Sunday’s service was Brooklyn’s first chance to publicly mourn Rubin’s death.

But no one spoke about the Whisk Cafe owner’s mysterious disappearance and still-unsolved slaying at the memorial. That was the point, Rabbi Hoover explained.

“We certainly hope that the murder is solved and that someone will be caught,” she said. “But a memorial service is less about trying to piece together what happened than it is trying to remember the person he was.”

Donations in Rubin’s name can be made to Camp Ramah New England, 2 Commerce Way, Norwood, MA 02062 or The Bureau of Jewish Education of RI, Israel Desk Scholarship Fund, 130 Sessions Street, Providence, RI 02906.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow his Tweets at @emrosenberg.

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Reader Feedback

Nancy Owen from Providence, RI says:
"Shambles" does not describe the scene we encountered upon returning to our apartment. Rather, an elaborate construction of ramps and bridges filled the living room where Josh and our son were maneuvering the remote control trucks. We were delighted with the creativity and mischief that Josh brought with him when he entered our lives, a spirit that will be greatly missed and never forgotten.
Jan. 10, 2012, 8:44 pm

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