Today dawned with the bright sunshine that southern Arizonans are accustomed to seeing on a daily basis. But this bright, sunny Tucson day was quickly darkened when I learned of the death of my friend and mentor Leonard Dinnerstein. Honestly, though I had not seen him recently, I find it terribly difficult to imagine the world without Leonard.
How do you measure a life? We traditionally list one’s accomplishments, descendants, honors, and contributions to society. All these become part of a person’s legacy. But we all remember is how a person touched our lives. Leonard touched many, many lives through his erudite scholarship, his example of professional excellence, his commitment to the community, and his love for his family and friends. I am honored to count myself among his friends. Leonard was my department head for seven years, from 1993-2000, and he taught me many things, but I want to mention just two. First, Leonard told me as a young assistant professor to focus on my scholarship and developing my reputation outside of the University of Arizona. “Ed,” he said, “as an academic you will be respected here only to the extent that you are respected elsewhere in the academy and also in the community.” That was wise counsel then, and it remains true to this day, at least in my opinion. The second bit of advice he gave me was to extend the reach of the Judaic Studies Program into the community. Again, wise counsel then and even truer today.
As Director of the “Committee on Judaic Studies,” Leonard laid a foundation focused on critical scholarship, inspired teaching, and community outreach. The success “The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies” enjoys today is founded on all that Leonard accomplished—we stand on his shoulders with pride, affection, and appreciation. The University of Arizona, the field of Judaic Studies, and the local Jewish community are all in his debt for his achievements as a scholar, teacher, and administrator.
Leonard published six outstanding books, and his book Antisemitism in America (Oxford University Press, 1994) won the prestigious National Jewish Book Award in 1994. He also edited or co-edited six other important scholarly volumes. He published over sixty journal articles and chapters in scholarly volumes. He presented scores of papers on his research at academic conferences. He was also frequently invited to speak to a wide variety of community organizations in the U.S. and abroad. In short, Leonard modeled the values he espoused.
Yes, the skies above Tucson today are a little less bright, the sun seems a little less warm because of the loss of my friend and mentor Leonard Dinnerstein. He will be missed sorely by his loving wife and lifelong colleague Myra, one of the country’s leading figures in feminist scholarship and activism, as well as his extended family. We will all miss him. Nonetheless, we will carry his memory and seek to live up to the example he set in so many ways. He leaves a remarkable legacy, and his memory will always be a blessing.
On Sunday, January 27th, beginning at 11:00 am, there will be a memorial service followed by a burial at
Evergreen Mortuary and Cemetery
3015 North Oracle Road
Tucson, AZ 85704
followed by a lunch at the Tucson Jewish Community Center (3800 E River Road, Tucson, AZ 85718).
The family will not be sitting shiva or having any visitors at this time. Those wishing to contact Myra Dinnerstein can send mail to her at
6231 N Montebella Road, Apt 304
Tucson AZ 85704
From the desk of the Center Director, Prof. J. Edward Wright