Dr. Joshua Comenetz directs research on international demographic mapping, supervises development of high-resolution geodemographic products and websites for humanitarian relief and disaster response, and advises internationally on best practices in population mapping.
In a paper in the journal Contemporary Jewry, Dr. Comenetz used census data and cartography to derive the most accurate possible estimate of the size of the American Hasidic population. He serves as consultant for the mapping of population by religion.
Dr. Comenetz has published numerous articles on international and domestic population and mapping, ethnic and religious geography, and analysis of spatial data and satellite imagery. He was previously a geography professor at the University of Florida specializing in demographics and international relations. He holds a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Minnesota and an A.B. in geology from Harvard.
Dr. David Dutwin is Vice President and Chief Methodologist of Social Science Research Solutions, a major market research and social science research firm located outside of Philadelphia, PA. His primary areas of expertise are in sampling methods, questionnaire development, weighting, and data analysis. Dr. Dutwin has conducted a wide range of studies, mostly pertaining to Jewish demography, Hispanic attitudes, opinions, and behavior, health policy, political tracking, and education policy.
Dr. Dutwin is also an adjunct professor at West Chester University where he teaches research methodology as well as business communication, rhetoric and mass media effects. David holds a Ph.D. from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, where his area of study was the formation of mass opinion. He also holds an M.A. from the University of Washington in rhetorical studies. Dr. Dutwin’s prior experience was in politics, where he worked for former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania and Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.
David lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife Betsy and his two sons, Aidan and Elias.
Lewis R. Gordon
Lewis R. Gordon is professor of philosophy, African American studies, and Judaic studies at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. He is an Afro-Jewish philosopher, political thinker, educator, and musician who grew up in the Bronx, New York, where he attended Evander Child’s High School, played jazz in NY night clubs, and went to Lehman College under the Lehman Scholars Program (LSP) where he graduated with honors in political science and philosophy as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Gordon’s research in philosophy is in Africana philosophy, existentialism, phenomenology, social and political philosophy, and philosophy of human sciences.
As a public intellectual, Gordon has written for a variety of political forums, newspapers, and magazines, such as truthout, the Pambazuka News, and The Mail & Guardian, and has lectured across the globe, and founded and co-founded journals and organizations, including Radical Philosophy Review and the Caribbean Philosophical Association, of which he was the first president (2003 to 2008). He also participates in several international research groups such as Thinking Africa at Rhodes University in South Africa and The Center for Caribbean Thought in Mona, Jamaica.As a public intellectual, Gordon has written for a variety of political forums, newspapers, and magazines, such as truthout, the Pambazuka News, and The Mail & Guardian, and has lectured across the globe, and founded and co-founded journals and organizations, including Radical Philosophy Review and the Caribbean Philosophical Association, of which he was the first president. He also participates in several international research groups such as Thinking Africa at Rhodes University in South Africa and The Center for Caribbean Thought in Mona, Jamaica.
Gordon is married to the political theorist Jane Anna Gordon. His website is https://www.lewisrgordon.com/
Lewis Gordon is the offspring of two Jewish communities that converged in his mother. One was the Solomon family, who migrated to Jamaica in the 19th Century. The other was from Ireland under the name of Finikin, who also immigrated there during the same period.
He is the founder and co-director, with his wife Jane Gordon, of the Center for Afro-Jewish Studies at Temple University, a research institute dedicated to developing reliable sources of information on Afro-Jews and Jewish diversity. He is also a research affiliate of the Institute for Jewish Research and Community. Professor Gordon achieved his PhD in Philosophy with distinction from Yale University in 1993. He earned his BA, with multiple honors, through the Lehman Scholars Program at Lehman College in the Bronx, New York, in 1984.
His co-edited A Companion to African-American Studies was chosen as the NetLibrary eBook of the Month for February 2007. His forthcoming books are An Introduction to Africana Philosophy, which will be published by Cambridge University Press, and, with Jane Anna Gordon, Of Divine Warning: Reading Disaster in the Modern Age, which will be published by Paradigm Publishers. He is the author of the foreword to Gary and Diane Tobin and Scott Rubin’s In Every Tongue (2005), and he is currently working on a book tentatively titled The Afro–Jewish Question and co-editing an anthology on the study of Jewish diversity. Professor Gordon has received many accolades for his work and has lectured internationally.
Jane Anna Gordon
Political Science Professor
Jane Gordon is Associate Professor of Political Science and African American Studies at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. She is the author of Why They Couldn’t Wait: A Critique of the Black-Jewish Conflict Over Community Control in Ocean-Hill Brownsville, 1967-1971 (Routledge, 2001), which was listed by The Gotham Gazette as one of the four best books recently published on Civil Rights, and co-editor of A Companion to African-American Studies (Blackwell’s, 2006) and Not Only the Master’s Tools (Paradigm Publishers, 2006). Gordon’s current work focuses on problems of legitimacy in democratic societies: she is currently completing one book that aims to refashion Rousseau’s concept of the general will through the resources offered by W.E.B. Du Bois’s idea of double consciousness and another, with Lewis Gordon, that develops a social and political theory of disaster in the modern age. Gordon is particularly interested in how best to measure and count communities that have been designated religiously, about ways in which best to understand members of communities of color who are deliberately returning to Judaism, and in how to most accurately and effectively educate contemporary Jews and non-Jews about the creolized past and present of vibrant Jewish communities.
Born in Ethiopia where he got his early education, Dr. Isaac holds a BA degree in Philosophy, Chemistry, & Music (Concordia College); an M. Div. (Harvard Divinity School); a PhD in Near Eastern Languages (Harvard University); and D.H.L. (honorary, John Jay /CUNY). He was Professor at Harvard (1968 -1977). The first professor hired in Afro-American Studies at Harvard, he was voted the best teacher each year by the students and the Department.
In addition to Harvard (that endowed the Ephraim Isaac Prize in African Studies in 1998), Dr. Isaac has lectured at Hebrew U (Ancient Semitic Languages), Princeton U (Near Eastern Studies, Religion; V. Prof. (Religion & African American Studies 1995-01) & U of Pennsylvania (Religion, Semitic Languages), Howard U (Divinity School), Lehigh U (Religion), Bard College (Religion, History), and other institutions of higher learning.
His subjects range from those mentioned above to Biblical Hebrew, Rabbinic Literature, Ethiopian History, Concept and History of Slavery and Ancient African Civilizations. He has been a Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Advanced Studies. He has received many awards and honors including an honorary D. H. L. (John Jay College, CUNY), the 2002 Peacemaker Award of the Rabbi Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding.
Dr. Isaac is author of numerous articles and books on (Late Second Temple) Jewish and (Ancient Ethiopic) Ge’ez literatures. Three of his recent works pertain to the oldest known manuscripts of The Book of Enoch (Doubleday, 1983) and An Ethiopic History of Joseph (Sheffield Press, 1990), and Proceedings of Second International Congress of Yemenite Jewish Studies (ISS & Univ. of Haifa, 1999). An expanded definitive version of his The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is in press (Africa World Press, 2001.) He is currently working on a new edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments of The Book of Enoch (Princeton Theological Seminary); A History of Religions in Africa; and Cultural History of Ethiopian Jews. He is on editorial boards of two international scholarly journals on Afroasiatic Languages and Second Temple Jewish Literature respectively.
Dr. Isaac has diverse accomplishments. He knows seventeen languages. He is the first translator of Handel’s Messiah into Amharic, Ethiopian official language. He is widely known in Ethiopia as founder of the National Literacy Campaign that made millions literate in the late sixties. He is currently the international Chair of the Horn of Africa Board of Peace and Development Organization (Addis Ababa, Asmara) and the President of The Yemenite Jewish Federation of America. He is on the board of many charitable and educational organizations. Sought after nationally and internationally, he is widely acclaimed as a public lecturer on religion, literature, ancient history, peace and conflict resolution, and various other subjects listed above.
Rabbi Irwin Kula
Educator and Author
Rabbi Irwin Kula is an eighth-generation rabbi, nationally known speaker and teacher, and the president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. A regular guest on Oprah and The Today Show, he is also the host of the public television broadcast called The Wisdom of Our Yearnings.
Irwin Kula is the author of author of Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life (Hyperion 2006). In his new public television special, based on his book Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life, the acclaimed educator, speaker, and author discusses the powerful positive energy of our yearnings. Our everyday lives are driven by deep and profound yearnings for happiness, for certainty, for love and meaningful relationships. By understanding the “hidden wisdom” of our desires, Kula maintains, an individual can transform their life into one of greater meaning, passion and love. Drawing upon ancient wisdom texts, Old Testament and Talmudic teachings, Buddhism, modern literature and contemporary life stories, Kula explains how to celebrate, embrace and grow from the paradoxes, contradictions and “sacred messiness” of life.
Rabbi Kula lives with his wife and daughters in New York City.
Noah S. Leavitt
Noah S. Leavitt is a teacher, author, community organizer and attorney. He serves as President of Congregation Beth Israel in Walla Walla, Washington. He is also a Visiting Assistant Professor with Whitman College.
He earned his B.A. from Haverford College, his J.D. from the University of Michigan, and his M.A. in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, where his thesis, “The Ends of Ethnicity,” analyzed the shifting perceptions of identity among leaders of interethnic networks in the Midwest.
He served as the Advocacy Director for the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, directing numerous campaigns to carry out the organization’s mission to combat poverty, racism and anti-Semitism in partnership with Chicago’ s diverse communities.
Leavitt’s writings analyzing contemporary legal, cultural and political events have appeared in a wide range of print and online publications including The Forward, Slate, Michigan Journal of International Law, CNN, The Housing Law Bulletin, FindLaw, the International Herald Tribune, Jurist, and the blog of the American Constitution Society.
He is currently working on a project with his wife, Helen Kim, to understand how American Jews and Asian-Americans who are married to each other think about their racial, religious and ethnic identities.
Dr. Gary A. Tobin z”l (Emeritus)
Founder, Institute for Jewish & Community Research
Dr. Gary A. Tobin was the founder and president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research, San Francisco. He was also a senior fellow with the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. He earned his Ph.D. in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley. He served as Director of the Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University for 14 years, after 11 years at Washington University, St. Louis. Dr. Tobin consulted with scores of non-profits and foundations, and speaks on a range of topics, from philanthropy to religious stereotypes.
Having edited two volumes on the effects of the racial schism in America, What Happened to the Urban Crisis? and Divided Neighborhoods, Dr. Tobin targeted racial and religious prejudice in America as a key concern. He wrote books and monographs on anti-Semitism, including Jewish Perceptions of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Semitic Beliefs in the United States. His writings on prejudice in America’s education systems include The UnCivil University: Politics and Propaganda in American Education, Profiles of the American University Volume 1: Political Beliefs & Behavior of College Faculty, and Profiles of the American University Volume 2: Religious Beliefs & Behavior of College Faculty. He completed a volume, published by Lexington Books, entitled The Trouble with Textbooks, an examination of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism that saturate elementary and secondary school social studies materials.
Dr. Tobin’s Jewish demography and Jewish identity texts include In Every Tongue: The Racial & Ethnic Diversity of the Jewish People, Rabbis Talk About Intermarriage, and Opening the Gates: How Proactive Conversion Can Revitalize the Jewish Community. He also wrote about organized religion in America, having completed two works, Church and Synagogue Affiliation and The Decline of Religious Identity in the United States.
His work on philanthropy was extensive. His publications include Mega-Gifts in American Philanthropy: Giving Patterns 2001-2003, Mega-Gifts in Jewish Philanthropy: Giving Patterns 2001-2003, and A Study of Jewish Foundations. Among his previous publications are Mega-Gifts in American Philanthropy: General & Jewish Giving Patterns Between 1995-2000 and The Transition of Communal Values and Behavior in Jewish Philanthropy.
Though the Jewish community lost a great leader in July 2009, Dr. Tobin left a gift in both the work he completed and the work he initiated for others to complete. 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.
Rabbi Manny Viñas
Founder, El Centro de Estudios Judios
Rabbi Rigoberto Emmanuel “Manny” Viñas was born and raised in the traditional Sephardic home of Cuban Jewish parents who came to Miami after the Cuban Revolution in 1960. As an Orthodox rabbi with a Masters in Social Work, Rabbi Viñas is the founder and director of El Centro de Estudios Judíos “Torat Emet,” a Spanish-language Jewish education and spirituality center for Latin-American Jews living in the New York area. Rabbi Viñas is an internationally recognized leader in the movement to educate and return the Anusim.
Robin Washington grew up in Chicago in a family of black and Jewish activists during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Participating in sit-ins and protests when he was three years old, he recalls those events fondly as “family outings.”
A nationally award-winning journalist, Washington has appeared on National Public Radio, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC News, CNN and the BBC. He was most recently the top editor of Minnesota’s Duluth News Tribune and was previously a columnist for the Boston Herald.
A 1987 Fellow in Science Broadcast Journalism at WGBH–TV Boston, his broadcast work includes “You Don’t Have to Ride Jim Crow!”—a national public television documentary that rewrote history books to tell the story of the first Freedom Ride in 1947—and the radio documentary “My Favorite Things at 50,” an audio portrait of John Coltrane’s recording of the jazz standard.
Washington’s commentaries have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Baltimore Sun, San Jose Mercury News and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, among many other newspapers.
Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi
Congregation Chevra Thilim
Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi is is the rabbi of Congregation Chevra Thilim, the oldest Orthodox synagogue in San Francisco. He received his rabbinic ordination from the Rabbinical Academy in Jerusalem and New York.
Rabbi Zarchi comes from a Hasidic family of rabbis that goes back six generations. Growing up in Brooklyn, he learned Hebrew and Aramaic as soon as he was able to read. He began studying Kabbalah shortly thereafter, at the age of five. He has studied under some of the great Hasidic and Kabbalistic masters. He is one of the foremost experts on the Kabbalah on the West Coast and is a frequent lecturer. Rabbi Zarchi currently teaches classes at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.
Rabbi Zarchi has traveled to many parts of the world through his involvement in outreach programs. He spent significant time in the Former Soviet Union participating in the synagogue recovery program in the early 1990s.
He presently serves on the Vaad Hakashrus of Northern California.
Rabbi Zarchi lives in San Francisco with his wife, Chani, and their five children.