Reuben Ambaruch, of Fairfax, passed away on Aug. 27. He was 95. He is survived by his wife, Sylvia K. Ambaruch (nee Schofer); his children, Arthur (Beth) Ambaruch and Sharon (Steven) Baum; and his grandchildren, Katelyn Ambaruch, Sam Ambaruch, Matthew Baum and Julia Baum. He was predeceased by his siblings, Hanna Levi, Yehuda “Leon” Am-Baruch and Clara Nizan; and his parents, Ester and Kalman Am-Baruch.
Reuben was born in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1926. As a teenager, Reuben and the Jewish community on the European side of Istanbul watched nervously as Hitler’s armies moved into the Balkans. As rumors flew that the Germans might come further south toward the Bosporus, Reuben joined an exodus of Jews fleeing to British-mandated Palestine.
Reuben soon found work at a British airfield as a mechanic’s assistant, an event that would shape the rest of his life. Following the British pullout from Palestine in 1948, Reuben’s knowledge of aircraft proved invaluable to Jewish patriots fighting for independence.
Reuben emerged as one of the founding members of the Israeli air force, flying many combat missions in the 1948 War for Independence. The importance of his role was underscored recently when Israeli air force historians traveled to Oakton, Va., to interview him. The picture of a smiling Reuben sitting in the cockpit of a Spitfire with Israeli markings is one of his family’s most cherished photos.
In 1952, Reuben moved to the United States, where he attended the University of Illinois and completed an engineering degree at San Jose. Reuben worked for Boeing and IBM, the highlight being his work on the Saturn-V project.
Reuben was a member of Congregation Olam Tikvah, in Fairfax. Donations may be made to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Contribution Receipt Center, PO Box 98091, Washington, DC 20090.