Photo Credit: Alan Light
Paul (Pee Wee Herman) Reubens with Todd Solondz at the 1988 Academy Awards, April 1988.

Jewish Actor Paul Reubens (Rubenfeld), known for creating and portraying the character Pee-wee Herman, passed away on July 30 at age 70 after a fight with cancer. His Pee-wee character was extremely popular with children and adults, and his show, “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,” which received 15 Emmy Awards, was on TV Guide’s list of the top ten cult classic television programs.

Reubens grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Sarasota, Florida, where his parents owned a lamp store. His mother was a teacher and his father was an automobile salesperson.


According to, before World War II, Paul’s father, Milton Rubenfeld, taught aerial acrobatics to pilots, and after Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, joined the Royal Air Force. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Rubenfeld joined the US Army Air Forces.

US Army Air Force Pilot Milt Ruby Rubenfeld. / The Giant Killer on Facebook

Milton Rubenfeld was approached by representatives of the Haganah in 1948, which was looking for Jewish pilots with combat experience, to help create an Israeli air force. Rubenfeld began ferrying planes to Israel and was trained in Czechoslovakia to fly a fighter plane that was based on the Messerschmitt Bf 109. At that point, the IAF only had four warplanes.

Paul Reubens posted a posthumous message on Instagram, saying: “Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years. I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect from my friends, fans, and supporters. I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you.”

According to the SF Gate, Reubens auditioned for the 1980–1981 season of Saturday Night Live, but the producers went with Gilbert Gottfried, who had the same acting style as Reubens and was a close friend of Lorne Michaels. Reubens was angry and bitter and decided to borrow money to start his own show in Los Angeles starring the Pee-wee Herman character which he had been developing for a few years.

Following the success of The Pee-wee Herman Show, Warner Bros. hired Reubens to write a script for a full-length Pee-wee Herman film, which grossed $40,940,662 domestically, almost six times its $7 million budget.

In the early 1990s, Reubens was involved in several scandalous arrests which ended the first chapter in his career. In 1999, he was able to restart his career, only to see it collapse again over new criminal charges. Since then, he did several cameo appearances on various TV shows and starred in a few movies, including, in 2016, Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday, produced by Judd Apatow.

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