Dr. Gary A. Tobin 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 San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR), a major force in the study of the contemporary Jewish community. “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.” Tobin’s most audacious writings may be those that urged the Jewish community to abandon its longstanding coolness to newcomers. Tobin saw such thinking as a relic of the Jewish experience of suffering and persecution and more befitting shtetl life in 19th century Europe than 21st century America. Jews, Tobin argued, needed to get over their fear and stop seeing their institutions as a bulwark against assimilation. And while many Jewish institutions were content to ignore Jews of non-European origin, Tobin actively sought them out. Through its initiative Be’chol Lashon, the institute reached out to Jews of color and helped educate the mainstream community about Jewish diversity. After Gary died, the Institute’s efforts became solely devoted to Be’chol Lashon.

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