JCRC Mourns the Passing of Gary Tankenoff, z”l
May 30, 2023
Minneapolis, MN – Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement:
“The JCRC mourns the loss of our dear friend, community leader, and philanthropist Gary Tankenoff, z’’l, whose life, family, and work centered around dedication to the kehillah of the Twin Cities, Tucson, and far beyond.
“My family lives in the St. Louis Park house where Gary, Marsha, Mari, and Scott lived many years ago. Gary sought to create a literal, figurative, and metaphorical protective home for our community. Gary and Marsha were life partners in their family mitzvot. Scott energetically continues the tradition with respect to the JCRC and community. Mari’s passion for social justice is also important to the family.
“One of Gary’s most enduring passions was deeply supporting Holocaust education. Gary was profoundly moved by the presence and lives of the many Shoah survivors who came to live in Minnesota. He saw the Holocaust as the ultimate expression of evil and indifference and wanted to honor the survivors’ lives and stories. Gary wanted all people, especially young people, to learn lessons from the Holocaust. Intensely patriotic, Gary also raised awareness of the Minnesota women and men who served in World War ll—including those who participated in the liberation of concentration camps.
“Gary and the family’s generosity in these realms greatly supported many JCRC projects, including the publication and revisions of Witnesses to the Holocaust: Stories of Minnesota Survivors and Liberators; Transfer of Memory—a touring exhibition of Minnesota Holocaust survivors by photographer David Sherman, writer by Lili Chester, and curators Laura Zelle and Susie Greenberg; the JCRC’s annual day trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; and the Second Generation and Third Generation Holocaust Speakers Bureau; among other projects.
“Similarly, as seen in his early support of the project that ultimately became the Smithsonian Institution’s Bias Inside Us, fighting discrimination and prejudice was foundational to Gary. Likewise, Gary generously supported physical security for the Jewish and greater communities. He believed greatly in the missions of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, the Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Minneapolis, Temple Israel, and Herzl Camp.
“Gary was a master of community relations in the way he lived his life. The projects of Hillcrest Development have changed the cityscape of many communities. In Minneapolis and St. Paul, many elected and public officials sought out Gary for his business acumen and counsel. He was derekh eretz: Whitey’s for lunch was a favorite meeting place. He cherished activities with family and friends, including catching large northerns on his yearly Canadien fishing trip—and conversation about Minnesota’s sports teams (especially Gopher hockey and the Vikings) and Arizona Wildcats basketball.
“In this time of sadness, many memories of Gary provide smiles—one example: for many years, Eddie Paster, z’l’ and Gary were the impresarios for the JCRC Annual Event—they loved their respective roles and celebrated the fact their different personalities and philosophies were united to strengthen the community and the JCRC. Gary and Eddie both were strongly attached to St. Paul; they loved to tell stories of their youth and always remembered from where they had come as they became anchors of the community later in life. Pirkei Avot counsels: ‘Acquire a friend for yourself.’ The ArtScroll commentary notes: ‘A good friend’ serves multiple functions including ‘provid[ing] good advice in all areas…’ Our whole community is immensely fortunate for all the knowledge, resources, and faith in the future that Gary and his family have always shared. May his memory be for a blessing.”
Photo: Eddie Paster, z”l, and Gary Tankenoff, z”l, at the JCRC Annual Event in 2009.
As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights antisemitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.