Dr. Gary Tobin, 1949-2009

Original thinker is what Forbes.com said in its obituary of Gary Tobin, who died at 59 Monday of this week in Summer 2009. A funeral service will be held today, July 9, 2009, at Congregation Beth Sholom, San Francisco, California.

The Jewish Telegraph Agency’s Ben Harris wrote of Dr. Tobin on July 7, 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.”

Noted as a scholar and researcher, but mostly regarded as teacher and mentor, Dr. Tobin was founder and president of the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR). Among his more recent contributions were:

* The Trouble with Textbooks: Distorting History and Religion, Gary A. Tobin and Dennis R. Ybarra (Maryland: Lexington Books, 2008)
* Mega-Gifts in Jewish Philanthropy: Giving Patterns 2001-2003, Gary A. Tobin and Aryeh K. Weinberg (San Francisco: The Institute for Jewish & Community Research, 2008)

* A Study of Jewish Culture in the Bay Area. Tobin, Gary A. (San Francisco: Institute for Jewish & Community Research, 2002)
* Religious & Spiritual Change in America: The Experience of Marin County, California. Gary A. Tobin, and Patricia Lin. (San Francisco: Institute for Jewish & Community Research, 2002)

The Jewish Outreach Institute wrote, “The Jewish community lost one of its most vocal and spirited advocates today with the passing of Dr. Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco.

“His work as a demographer often challenged conventional Jewish thinking, forcing the community to turn a critical eye towards itself when thinking about the Jewish future. Gary was a firm believer in reaching out to all those on the periphery and he often took unpopular or controversial positions?”

An editorial in “New Jersey Jewish News” ends its comment on Dr. Tobin, “In saying goodbye to a maverick thinker, it is fitting to quote Tobin himself on the topic, from an essay he wrote in 2008:

“[T]his is 21st-century America, not 18th-century Poland or 20th-century Germany. [The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life] tells us that Americans are switching religions like never before. Do we want to enter the competition armed with our wonderful 3,000-year-old history, or kvetch about assimilation, intermarriage, and our dwindling numbers?

“Those who choose to join the Jewish people will enrich us with their ideas, energy, and passion. And born Jews who choose to embrace their Judaism in an open marketplace also will enrich Jewish life. It is time to embrace the America in which we live. We must abandon the paradigm that out children and grandchildren are potential gentiles and promote the new belief that America is filled with potential Jews.”

The Institute (IJCR) said of him on their web page, “Gary devoted his life to his wife and business partner Diane, his children Adam, Amy, Sarah, Aryeh, Mia and Jonah, and his grandson, Josiah.”

Donations in memory of Dr. Gary Tobin may be made to the Institute (IJCR) through PayPal or to the Institute directly.

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