Isadore Rubin (c.1872-1937) immigrated to Pittsburgh from Russia in 1885. Sarah Schaffer (c.1876-1937) immigrated to the city from Russia in 1891. They married in 1893 and had six children, Hyman, Harry, Morris, Leslie, Pauline and Gabriel.
Isadore Rubin began selling insurance and eventually became an agent with the New York Life Insurance Company. About 1922, the family moved from the Hill District to 5519 Stanton Avenue, in Highland Park. They lived next-door to the Schreiber Family.
Their youngest child, Gabriel “Gabe” Rubin (1911-2003), spent six weeks at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law before leaving to go into the entertainment business. He was an usher at the old Nixon Theater on Sixth Avenue before opening the Art Cinema at 809 Liberty Avenue, downtown, in the mid-1930s. The theater was among the first in Pittsburgh to screen primarily foreign films, such as The Golem and The Grand Illusion. The business model grew difficult to maintain as European hostilities complicated overseas distribution. Today, the Art Cinema building houses Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ Harris Theater. After serving in the Army Air Force during World War II, Rubin opened some of the first drive-in movie theaters in Western Pennsylvania. He later operated the Nixon Theater in its second incarnation on Liberty Avenue, downtown.
In the late 1960s, Rubin partnered with Jason Shapiro and Lenny Litman to run the Penn Theater, which is now Heinz Hall. Using the profits from a successful stage run of Hello, Dolly!, starring Carol Channing, they started the Pittsburgh Pipers, one of the inaugural franchises of the American Basketball Association. The 1967-1968 squad, led by Harlem Globetrotter and future National Basketball Association Hall of Famer Connie Hawkins, won the first ABA Championship in 1968. The team left for Minneapolis the following year, but returned to Pittsburgh for the 1969-1970 season. “Gabe really loved it,” Shapiro told the Post-Gazette in 2003. “We traveled, went to all the games. It was an exciting thing. He lost a lot of money in the process, but it gave him a lot of pleasure.”