You are on page 1of 4
Positive Gene Tere Ge ee Cone ante nts) Snr a Cates Geena cs em Srna ay eee Se ee eer et rere Rte ct 7 Bere 5 “Tve been called a radical thinker! ad mits Tobin, nursing a steaming mug of tea while sitting in the conference raom of his office. "But I consider myself an optimistee realist” An accomplished authat. Tia has eom- sulted with seores of nonprofits and foun- dations, and speaks on a range of topics, from philanthropy to religious stereotypes, \With his graying beard and inquisitive ex- pression, heloks a great deal likeaollege professor, {As well he should, Tobin does indoed have strong ties to academia, He spent Lt years the faculty of Washington Univer sity in St, Louis, where he was born and grew up, He then spent 14 years of Bean: dots University. where Ine was the director ‘ofthe Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Conter for Modern Jewish Stuties ‘Tobinis among the most unusual afacar sdemics—he chase te leave a tenured post ton to ereate his owe think tank, the In- stitute fr Jowish & Community Research. He says itwas “something of a risk’ but he wanted the time and freedom to pursue the most cutting-odge issues in Jesh life. He has kept his connection to the univer- sity world as a current senior fellow with Lie Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. ‘Tobin grew up assimilated Reform Jew, but sith «strong affection for Israel ancl all things Jewish. Today he belongs to both a Conservative and an Orthodox synagogue, The institute bas regular study somninars with Rabbi Shlomo’Zarchi, aseventh.generation Hasidic rabbi. Somehow, it seems fitting that Tobin's Institute fe headquartered tn Northern California. an area notorious for attracting progressive thinkers. Yet, the impact of Bis research extenels far beyond the San Fran ‘isco Bay Area, home to: the thirdhlargest Jewich community in the country. Jewish ‘community leaders across the globe fre- _quontly take notiew of the findings coming ‘out of Tobiis institute. an independent. onpartican think tank that provides in- navative research and pragmatic policy analyses, ‘Tobin runs the institute with his wife, Diane Kaufimann-Tobin, who serves. as associate director. The couple live in San Francisco and have six children, five of whom are grown and out of the house, ‘Their youngest is 10-year-old Jonah, an African-American bboy who was adopted a «asa baby through the local jewish Family ‘& Childrens Services Adoption Connce- tion program, “Jonakis birth mother chose us as par- cents, and wewere all together when he was born? recalls Kaufinann-Tobin recall fone! ly. A striking, woman with green eyes and ‘aubwarn hair lve met and fell in Jove with ‘Tobin after hearing him speak at aconfer= cenece."I was intrigued by is optimisen she says smiling at her hneshand, ‘Today the two are nearly inseparable working sede by side in their research on ‘behalf ofthe Jowish community. Together they lead the institute in its intensive work examining philanthropy. religious preji- dice, and the security of the Jewish €0ns- munity. ‘ne of the institutes most widely read research reports about Jewish philan- thropy shows a growing trend in giving to philanthropies outside the Jewish com- munity, Tobin cites evidence that Jewish philanthropists are more likely to make their largest Bits to non Jewish causes. ‘According to his research, megagilts of $10 million, $8100 million. er even more from Jews to on-Jewish ‘organizations are not un. ‘common. “It shauld come ss no surprise’ says Tobin, “given how Americanized Jews and their philanthra- pyhave become: Tobin describes haw Jewish charithes are generally failing to attract financial support from Americas wealthiest and ‘mast philanthropic Jews. ln January, Fobin released a report showing that Jews ac: ‘counted for 16% (or about 1,600) ofall gifts of81 million-or more donated to nonpeotit organizations between 2001 and 2003. But, only S%afthe $10 million-plus giftsby Jew: {sh donors went to Jewish groups. Interestingly, Tobin believes. the low rate of “megayifis"to Jewish organizations does not reflect poorly on the generosity of Jewish donors, their genera level of giving, 1s om par with their wealthy non-Jewish neers, However, says Tobin, Jewish ongani- zation are not effectively reaching out to ‘the uitra-wealthy. “They Ihave not capitalized on Jowish wealth, While universities, museums, and hospitals have dedicated resources to per- tior TOBIN belie bianco in Americar Cera) =i fecting the art of courting the megagih. Jewish groups have failed to-de-so."On t ‘ther hard. Tobin acknowledges that Jews fare increasingly drawn to the causes and institutions of secular saciety.except when, faced with an external threat. Support for Israel. for example slinked tothe need for self-protection. Tobin also recently made waves whon be released a study citing the need for Feder tions toundergo radical reformation they age to remain the dominant force in Jewish philantirops. A policy paper released by Tobin's institute challenged fexierations to ‘sk hard questions about their mission, purpose, and aperations, and examine ty “nuts and bolts, structure, and mechanics ofthe federations themselves" Describing it as a “wako-up call? Tobin explains that federations awe it to d selves and the Jewish community they ‘serve 10 take a haner look at how they ‘do business, the problems they have, and family founda. eM eu scsR ae ortant institutions Tm} what they can do dillerently and better rritique fr not the same as condemna- jon? Tobin emphasizes. We want federa- tions to do better precisely beeause they portant” ‘Among, his areas of concer was the question of why more and more federa- tions are losing control of their endaw- ment Funds as they become quasi-inde- pendent catities or conipletely separate ‘organizations. He also addressed the issue ‘of umbrella giving. considerod outmacded lby some. Tobin argues that umbrela. ing serves an important function, “We stil rnced the ability ta raise money for both ev exyday and emergency purposes” ON ANOTHER TOPIC IN JEWISH PHIL- anthropy, ‘Tobin believes Jewish family Toundations have emerged as one of the ost important institutions in American Jewish life, He motes that they fund both spring 2008 | 133. GARY TOBIN the exis 1g Jewish communal infrastruc ture as well as provide soed money for i ovative programs. They interact with all other existing institutions, including UJA. Federation, synagogues, Jewish human service agencies, cultural institutions, and the State of Israck, Moreover. they are just beginning to grovs, “While billions of dal: lars have flawed into these foundations ‘over the past few years” says Tobin, “itis but a trickle of what is expected to take place over the next decade” Because Jewish family foundations are new and evolving phenomenon, says Tobin, they are less structured than ex: verse evelving” as ‘explaining that despite their guick growth, m be relatively unsophisticated considering thevast amounts of money being distri uted through them, According to Tobin, most Jewish family foundations dev not yot have formal application procedures, gublelines, or consistent methods af ‘grant-making, Tobin says this will change over time as they become more structured, Jewish ving by family foundations cane found! along a spectrum—fror those who be: jeve they are being “most Jewish" when giving to specifically Jewish instis {particularistic) to those who believe in directing maney te general causes (uni vversalictic) Im many casos, parents establish foun ations with the intention of eaducating ‘their children about Jewish philanthropy, sand preparing them forthe responsibility they will have in the future. They hope it will keep them connected to the Jewish ommunity and serve asa nears te build thoi individual Jewish identity Tobin's expertise has made him a sought-after resource to major philan: thropists and foundations. It is doubtful that an ‘work with more of the Jewels one has advised and continues to ts wealthiest individuals than Tobin has lover the past 20 years. Tobiris institute has also been very active in dealing with the Issue of anti iam and anti-leraelise 01 Americas college campos, Tobin's book The Cnc ‘University. weriten along with Aryeh Wein berg and Jenna Fever, examines ideology and expression of antisemitism ‘nd anti tsrackism i the American higher 134 I sprinc. 2008 ‘education system is hidden under the re brie of “legitimate” criticise of Israel. Tobin testified at a hearing before the US, Committee om Civil Rights in 2005, thestirst tie it had examined the isse-of antisemitisen on campuses. Their ndings noted, “Many college campuses theowgh- (out the United States continue to expe cnce incidents of antisernitism. 1 serious proble Which warrants further attention. Antisemitie bigotry is ne loss morally deplorable when camouflaged as ant-israelism or anti-Zienism SWITCHING GEARS, AND MOVING ON to thecontroversialtapice intermarriage sand conversion, Tabia concedes that his view is one that isnot always popular in the Jewish community: Tobin shook th 10 years ago, he wrote How Proactive Comer. the Jewish Carumanty. He staked out a new position for Jewish 10 “quit. warrying about how many Jews we lose through assimilation and to start actively pursuing how to grow the Jewish papolation through carver DIANE KAUFMANN-TOBIN is the founder and director of Be’chol Lastron (In Every Tongue), @ research ‘and community-building initiative of the institute that seeks to grow and ‘strengthen Jews through ethnic, cul ‘tural, and racial inclusiveness. With personnel and partners across the United States, as well as in Latin ‘America, Europe, and Africa, Be’chal Lashon calls for an intercultural un- derstanding of the Jewish people. “That diversity is our strength and our future,” says Kaufmann Tobin, Kautmann-Tobin is passionate about the way diversity. strengthens the Jewish people. “Imagine a new global Judaism that transcends differ- ences in geograpty, ethnicity, class, age, ritual practice, and beliefs. Dis- cussions about who /s a real Jew will be replaced with celebration of the rich, multidimensional character of the Jewish people.” Kaufmann Tobin believes in the potential to change the tradi. tional debate over the future of Ametican Jewish life. “We have -always been diverse. The historical home of the Jows lies at the eographic crossroads of Africa, Asta, and Europe, Jews are an amalgam of many peoples, and Jewish origins include a multitude ‘of languages, nations, tribes, and skin eolors,” The Abayudaya of Uganda are one of the many Jewish com. munities around the world in partnership with the institute. At the request of the Abayudaya leadership, the institute Is working ‘with its community to improve the deli ry of water, electricity, and medical care to all residents of their subcounty—Jewish, Chris- tian, and Mustim, ttesrytom maga

You might also like