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Dr. Gary Tobin, influential scholar and Jewish leader, dies at age 59


San Francisco, CA (July 9, 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.

The funeral will be held on Thursday, July 9, 2009 at 1:00 pm at Congregation Beth Sholom, 14th Avenue at Clement Street in San Francisco.

For more information or to make a donation in Gary Tobin’s memory to the Institute for Jewish & Community Research, please visit www.garytobin.org.