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Watch the Gary Tobin Memorial Video

Dr. Gary Tobin
1949-2009

Dr. Gary A. Tobin, founder and president of the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR), passed away on July 6, 2009. Dr. Tobin, one of the foremost thinkers in Jewish life, spent the first 24 years of his professional career in academia at Washington University in St. Louis and as the director of Brandeis University’s Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. In a risky and courageous move, words often used to describe his work, Dr. Tobin resigned a tenured position and established IJCR, a major force in the study of the contemporary Jewish community. An academic by trade, Dr. Tobin was an entrepreneur and the success of IJCR is a testament to his creativity and leadership.

As president of IJCR, Dr. Tobin identified three primary areas of research and action that he recognized as most important to the health and future of the Jewish people. These included the study of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, the study of Jewish philanthropy, and the growth of the Jewish people. In all three areas, Dr. Tobin’s highly innovative research initiatives have created major change in the Jewish community and beyond.

Key initiatives include IJCR’s ongoing Mega-Gift Project, an in-depth look at the largest gifts made in America, for which Jewish philanthropists are disproportionately responsible. The project has shed light on the changing landscape of Jewish giving and laid the groundwork for the future of Jewish philanthropy.

The Initiative to Combat Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism in America’s Educational Systems has, through coalition-building, original research, and education of donors, policy-makers and academia itself, played an instrumental role in forcing the issue to the forefront of both the Jewish communal and national agendas.

And IJCR’s groundbreaking work in the area of Jewish growth and diversity through its initiative, Be’chol Lashon, embody one of Dr. Tobin’s deepest beliefs: that the Jewish community is stronger and more diverse than many acknowledge and has unlimited opportunity for growth.

In all his work, Gary Tobin challenged the status quo of institutions for which he cared deeply, yet always believed could be even better. Whether it was the Jewish federation system, American academia, or the State of Israel, Gary was never afraid to challenge and provoke, always expecting better and more. He believed the greatest expressions of affection come not through blind praise, but through thoughtful criticism and unlimited optimism for the things that meant the most to him.

Perhaps one of Dr. Tobin’s greatest talents was as a teacher. Many who now work diligently and passionately in the Jewish communal world consider Gary a mentor. Moreover, Dr. Tobin worked tirelessly to coach his team of colleagues at IJCR. He wanted his work to live beyond him, not for the sake of his own legacy, but for the sake of the greater good he always pursued. The Institute for Jewish & Community Research will continue to pursue Dr. Tobin’s vision inspired by his passion, courage, professionalism, and optimism.

Though the Jewish community has lost a great leader, Dr. Tobin left a gift in both the work he completed and the work he initiated for others to complete. We remember Gary Tobin as a great community leader, loving husband, and father. He devoted his life to his wife and business partner Diane, his children Adam, Amy, Sarah, Aryeh, Mia and Jonah, and his grandson, Josiah. View the press release.


Spotlight Article

Positive Realist: Dr. Gary A. Tobin, By Debbie Cohen, Lifestyles Magazine, Spring 2008.
Dr. Gary A. Tobin knows how to make a point—even if it's not always easy to hear what the well-known demographer and President of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco has to say. Tobin challenges traditional ways of thinking about Jewish communal life. Read on...


Letters and Notices

Jewish Federation of Winnipeg: We had the good fortune to work with Gary in the late 80's and thought you and your family would like to know the critical role Gary played in the revitalization of our Jewish community here. View the letter.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.): I deeply admire the contributions Gary made to the community. He had a unique way of looking at the world and was always generous in sharing those views with others. View the letter.

Ethiopian National Project: It is such leaders as Gary who inspire those among us who seek to make change. His dedication to Judaism and Israel, and in particular to the Ethiopian-Israeli community, is one that few carry as deeply as he. Read on...

Rabbi Gershom Sizomu: Many people are what they are because an Angel of God came their way. For me, my family and community, Dr. Gary Tobin was this Angel. Read on...

Israelite Board of Rabbis: The Israelite community mourns the passing of Gary Tobin, a Mench whose love of the Jewish people extended to Jews of color around the world. While many praise his many accomplishments as president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, we remember him most fondly for his unique and steadfast commitment to acceptance, inclusion, and appreciation of the racial and cultural diversity that already exists among Jews but is seldom acknowledged. Download the letter.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors: The members of the Board, with a profound sense of civic and personal loss, are conscious of the many fine qualities of heart and mind which distinguished and brought justifiable appreciation to Dr. Tobin. View the letter.

The National Jewish Center for Learning: The Jewish people has lost one of its most visionary, courageous, creative, wise, passionate, and loving scholar- activist- community builders. No one in Jewish life has done more to nurture a more inclusive paradigm of Jewish peoplehood for the 21st Century. Read on...

The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies: His research, policy development and perspective on contemporary Jewish life was an invaluable contribution that will live on. Read on...


Media Coverage

Gary A. Tobin, Jewish Philanthropy Scholar, By Grant Williams, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, July 23, 2009.
He led a study of the biggest gifts to nonprofit groups and found that, per capita, Jews give more gifts of $1-million or more than do people of other religions. Read on...

Gary Tobin, a friend to interfaith professionals, Alliance of Jewish Outreach Professionals Blog, July 14, 2009.
I must say that attending Gary's funeral made one thing crystal clear: Gary's greatest project, with his wife, Diane, was his family. Read on...

Gary Tobin highlighted truths we needed to hear, J. Weekly, July 9, 2009.
Gary Tobin was among the first in our community to help us understand who we are, where we have been and where we are going. Read on...

Community mourns 'pioneering thinker' Gary Tobin, By Stacey Palevsky & Ben Harris, Special to J. Weekly, July 9, 2009.
Gary Tobin’s research was not always welcomed with open arms by mainstream Jewish organizations, many of which came under attack in his reports. And yet the San Francisco man was never discouraged by such resistance. Read on...

Research Spotlight: Talking Truth About Jewish Federations, bjpa.org, July 9, 2009.
The Berman Jewish Policy Archive honors the memory of Dr. Gary A. Tobin and is proud to share his work here and in our featured publications. Read on...

Editorial: Jewish potential, The New Jersey Jewish News, July 9, 2009.
Gary Tobin spent his life researching the trends and habits of American Jews, combining hard science and provocative opinions about who we were, what ailed us, and what might make us stronger and better. Read on...

Gary Tobin's death encourages us to embrace Jewish diversity, By Nina Amir, Examiner.com, July 9, 2009.
We Jews are a community with much diversity. We should celebrate that diversity. Given the fact that we have been ostracized and persecuted throughout history, we should include our own—no matter their color, and welcome them in. Tobin was an advocate for such action. In his memory, we should reach out to Jews of all colors, races, backgrounds. Read on...

Dr. Gary Tobin, 1949-2009, By Peter Menkin, Examiner.com, July 8, 2009.
Original thinker is what Forbes.com said in its obituary of Gary Tobin, who died at 59 Monday of this week in Summer 2009. Read on...

ZOA Mourns Death Of Gary Tobin, Praises His Work Exposing Anti-Semitism/Anti-Israelism In U.S. Schools, Zionist Organization of America, July 8, 2009.
Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., the Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, said, “I had the privilege of testifying with Dr. Tobin at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ hearing on campus anti-Semitism in November 2005. Gary’s clear and comprehensive testimony, and the substantial evidence of campus anti-Semitism that he documented and submitted, were crucial to the landmark conclusions that the Commission issued. Read on...

He Took Our Measure, and Dreamed Bigger, By J.J. Goldberg, The Forward, July 8, 2009.
Besides producing scholarship, Tobin got it noticed. He was articulate and got along with reporters. He was in demand as a speaker at national Jewish conventions. His center was producing innovative approaches to the field, including a new way of measuring national community trends, drawing a composite portrait from data collected in local city surveys that were combined to produce a cross-section. Read on...

Gary Tobin, An Appreciation, By Ed Case, InterfaithFamily Network Blog, July 8, 2009.
When I stopped being a lawyer and started working in the Jewish non-profit world in 1999, the first gathering I ever attended was an event around the publication of Tobin’s <i>Opening the Gates: How Proactive Conversion Can Revitalize the Jewish Community. I still have that book on my shelf, with many post-it notes interspersed among its pages. Read on...

Remembering Gary Tobin, By Jacob Berkman, JTA, July 8, 2009.
There are probably few students of American Jewry as comfortable arguing for more aggressive efforts to grow Jewish numbers through conversion as they are assailing the hostility towards Israel of reflexively liberal academics. But Gary Tobin, who died late Monday at 59 after a long illness, was just that sort of thinker. Read on...

Gary Tobin's death sparks thoughts on positive nature of conversion, By Nina Amir, Examiner.com, July 8, 2009.
I didn’t know Tobin, but I’m struck by his focus on being more open to converts. My husband is a “Jew by Choice.” Raised a Southern Baptist, he no longer practiced his religion when we met. We went on a “spiritual journey” together looking for what I call “something more” in our religious observance. Read on...

Remembering Gary Tobin, By Levi Fishman, Jewish Outreach Institute, July 7, 2009.
In partnership with Be’Chol Lashon (“In Every Tongue”), an advocacy organization directed by his wife Diane, and through books and opinion pieces, Gary advanced the work and ideas of all those who seek a truly welcoming Jewish community. Read on...

Maverick researcher Gary Tobin, 59, reached out to Jews of color, By Ben Harris, JTA, July 7, 2009.
“Gary was a visionary about the Jewish community,” said Leonard Saxe, a professor at Brandeis University who succeeded Tobin as director of the Cohen Center. “He identified problems and issues in the community and often developed these really creative analyses, whether it was about the role of synagogues or the makeup of communities and more recently about philanthropy." Read on...

Gary Tobin, Jewish researcher, dies at 59, JTA, July 7, 2009.
Tobin, who was known for his provocative research, urged the community to be more open to converts, arguing that it was a viable way to grow Jewish numbers. He also was a fierce critic of the National Jewish Population Survey, claiming that its methodology was flawed and that it had undercounted American Jews by more than 1 million. Read on...


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