This memorial website was created in memory of Jerry Gurin, our beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, colleague, and friend. We will remember and love him forever.


A memorial brunch with remembrances for Jerry was held on Sunday, May 12, 2019 at the Michigan League. The video of the full memorial can be viewed in the video section of this site. A playlist of the songs played at the memorial can be heard here

The family asks that contributions in Jerry’s memory be sent to the following organizations:
  • J Street: The political home of pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans. Donate here
  • Jews for Racial & Economic Justice. Donate here. 
  • University of Michigan Program on Intergroup Relations. Donate here.
Posted by Ellen Quart on January 20, 2020
I can't believe it has been a year. I can still hear Jerry's laugh.
Posted by Zelda Gamson on July 10, 2019
Looking at all the pictures I see that Jerry towered over everyone else even in his advanced years-- not only in his height but in matters of the heart and intellect. After many years not seeing him when I moved to New England, I can still hear his booming voice and New York accent. Jerry offered me my first post-PhD research job at ISR in the Michigan Student Study in the mid-60s, then recommended me for my first teaching job in higher education. Jerrry sat on my living room couch while I dropped off my second child at his first day of kindergarten, patiently waiting to go over print-outs. I spent a lot of time at meetings with Jerry. We shared graduate students. We wrote reports. He brought fun and good sense to those meetings. And most of all, he brought decency, kindness, and trust in people to those meetings. What a guy!!
Posted by Ratnesh Nagda on May 20, 2019
I am so grateful for our beautiful gathering to honor and celebrate the life, family and community of Jerry Gurin. What a profound and powerful coming together of people deeply touched by his generosity, grace and goodness.

Thank you Pat and the Gurin family for allowing such a meaningful space for sharing our memories, our love, our tears and our connectedness. Here is a link to a collage of photos so that we may continue to cherish Jerry and what he and Pat have gifted to each of us.
https://drive.google.com/open?id=18O5AJ1XNUwcL6EVBsq_jvaKkTO-uVPpQ
Posted by Lester Monts on May 4, 2019
I will always remember Jerry for his commitment to fairness and social justice. Well into his nineties, his work and guidance on the Michigan Student Study help produce a major research study on for the student experience. May he Rest In Peace.
Posted by Frances Aparicio on February 25, 2019
My daughters and I have sweet and wonderful memories of our friendship with Gerry, Pat and Chloe in the 1990s. Jerry was, in his own quiet ways, a strong presence yet his humanity always stood out in our interactions. He will always live in us and his passion and advocacy for social justice will continue to be a legacy in all of our hearts.
Posted by Phillip Bowman on February 5, 2019
I will always remember Jerry as a true mentor with a compelling intellect, strong indignation for racial injustice, positive spirit, and genuine respect for human dignity....
Posted by Ronald Brown on February 4, 2019
I will always remember Jerry’s warm greetings, smiles, laughter, and insights he brought to our discussions. I will cherish the fellowship around our dinner-book discussions about humanity, skepticism and faith.
Posted by David Schoem on February 4, 2019
Jerry was a brilliant scholar and a force for social and racial justice, of course, but he was also such a kind, caring, gentle, loving man. He always had a big smile for others, was a great intellectual and social justice mentor to many, and an inspiration to all. He lives on in our memories and our bettered lives, and in the life of his beautiful family.
Posted by Gail Wolkoff on February 2, 2019
Dear Jerry~ You are kind and compassionate person. I am blessed to have you in my life~
You are loved, in all times of good and sad~ 
Until we meet again.
Posted by Thomas A. Gordon on January 31, 2019
Jerry --and Pat --showed up for us late-'60s and '70s U-M psych students: They offered up superior intellect, comfortable energy, critical reflection/inspection space, fellowship, food, exquisite listening, affirming exchange, laughter, and a willingness to shine hot lights on the social justice challenges of the day. Jerry --and Pat --showed up collegial, informed, focused, and flexibly available. They helped us to take on the proverbial "elephants in the room" thoughtfully, substantively, balanced and prepared. Amazingly, they were never grumpy. Jerry could prompt, even lead, us to take a deeper, more comprehensive dive --smiling right through the entire nudge. Jerry was patient with robust conversations. No panic, no pressure. I always left the Gurins more pumped to participate, not only on the U-M doctorate journey, but in society at large and on the world stage. RIP.
Posted by Halford Fairchild on January 31, 2019
Jerry Gurin is a reminder of (wo)man's immortality, for he lives in me.
Jerry and Pat Gurin were the shoulders we stood on at The U of M in the early to mid 1970s.
A life well lived.
Posted by Vonnie McLoyd on January 31, 2019
Jerry was an amazing person on so many levels. He was remarkably kind, generous, gracious, and joyful-- eager to embrace all that life had to offer. I admired the loving relationship that he and Pat had, and how remarkably attentive, patient, and involved he was with his children and grandchildren. He was an absolutely brilliant, learned, and accomplished man who called out social injustices, but was never hesitant to show a playful side.  I have many fond memories of times spent with Pat and Jerry in Ann Arbor, New York, and Vermont. At Christmas time, when we’d read and act out August Wilson’s plays, Jerry would choose a role and play it with gusto with his big, booming voice! He lived a very full and principled life, brought happiness to so many, and did so much good in the world! I will surely miss his presence, but his compassionate spirit will live on….
Posted by Shervin Assari on January 29, 2019
Jerry has been and will be a role model for me. In June 2016 (PRBA reunion), I approached him and told him that "50 years ago Pat and himself had shown that high locus of control does not mean the same thing for Whites and Blacks". "Now 50 Years later, I have found that similar constructs (self-efficacy, perceived control, etc) predict mortality for Whites but not Blacks", I explained. Then I told him how much I admire him and then: "I wanted to come to you, take a picture with you, and tell you that your research has informed my work 50 years later". " You should send an email and tell Pat as it will make her very happy" he said. I will never forget him. What he wrote half a century ago made my findings understandable to me....  I shared that photo on this website.... Rest in piece Jerry!
Posted by Jackie Simpson on January 29, 2019
Dr. Jerry Gurin, a brilliant man, a kind spirit, a youthful and wise soul. I miss you. Thank you for officiating my and jeanine's wedding. You were the only one we thought of to do it and are grateful that you agreed. We wanted your clean energy and aura of love that you always carried with you. I loved the many meals you, Pat, Jeanine and I had together--our great conversations where we shared our hopes, dreams, and struggles. You would often be the more quiet one in the group and yet, when you spoke your words would somehow make everything OK. Be well my friend - you not only planted many seeds in this world, you left a huge forest.
Posted by Abby Stewart on January 29, 2019
Jerry was a truly beautiful human being. He made my world so much better and in so many ways. I think of every conversation we ever had--they always started with his outrage at some new injustice just uncovered, or an old one confirmed, and soon moved into a brilliant analysis of what was at stake, and sooner than seemed imaginable we were laughing and remembering the joy of friendship, of conversation, of being on the right side of history, and of love . Jerry was a presence in this world--he made it better. I miss him, but am so aware of all the loving, wonderful people he left behind--the family he adored, and his many friends and colleagues whose lives he touched. May it be true in all we do and are that he is truly "a part of us."
Posted by Louella Levey on January 28, 2019
When I first met Jerry over 40 years ago at their home in Ann Arbor, I was dumbstruck. Like cousin Jesse, I first 'knew' Jerry when I was an undergrad. He was the author of one of my favorite political science books on parties and politics in America, which influenced my choice as a poly sci major. Meeting him in person added so many more dimensions! I will miss his wonderful spirit, his sense of humor and the joy he found in his family and in life.
Posted by Lorraine Gutierrez on January 27, 2019
Jerry was one of the most wonderful and inspirational people I have ever had the fortune to know. It is hard for me to believe that he is no longer physically with us. I do know he is living on in his legacy -- his wonderful family, his scholarship, and his justice work. My best memory of him is when he met my father in law, Harry Peyser, and they discovered they had both attended DeWitt Clinton in the Bronx and they broke out into singing the school song.

Leave a Tribute

 
Recent Tributes
Posted by Ellen Quart on January 20, 2020
I can't believe it has been a year. I can still hear Jerry's laugh.
Posted by Zelda Gamson on July 10, 2019
Looking at all the pictures I see that Jerry towered over everyone else even in his advanced years-- not only in his height but in matters of the heart and intellect. After many years not seeing him when I moved to New England, I can still hear his booming voice and New York accent. Jerry offered me my first post-PhD research job at ISR in the Michigan Student Study in the mid-60s, then recommended me for my first teaching job in higher education. Jerrry sat on my living room couch while I dropped off my second child at his first day of kindergarten, patiently waiting to go over print-outs. I spent a lot of time at meetings with Jerry. We shared graduate students. We wrote reports. He brought fun and good sense to those meetings. And most of all, he brought decency, kindness, and trust in people to those meetings. What a guy!!
Posted by Ratnesh Nagda on May 20, 2019
I am so grateful for our beautiful gathering to honor and celebrate the life, family and community of Jerry Gurin. What a profound and powerful coming together of people deeply touched by his generosity, grace and goodness.

Thank you Pat and the Gurin family for allowing such a meaningful space for sharing our memories, our love, our tears and our connectedness. Here is a link to a collage of photos so that we may continue to cherish Jerry and what he and Pat have gifted to each of us.
https://drive.google.com/open?id=18O5AJ1XNUwcL6EVBsq_jvaKkTO-uVPpQ
his Life

Gerald (Jerry) Gurin, a professor and research scientist at the University of Michigan throughout his career, died on January 20, 2019 at the age of 96. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Patricia Gurin; his son and daughter-in-law, Joel and Carol Gurin; his daughter and son-in-law, Jennifer and Bob Freeman; his sister, Gloria Ross; his grandchildren, Alison Gurin, Joanna Gurin, Chloe Gurin-Sands, Benjamin Gurin, Bryan Dameron, and Brooklyn Freeman; and the extended Gurin-Levey-Ross family. His daughter Sarah Rebekah Gurin pre-deceased him in 1997.

Jerry was raised in the Bronx and proudly kept his New York accent through seven decades of life in Ann Arbor. The third child of Russian-Jewish immigrants Morris and Sarah Gurin, he grew up with siblings Ann, Arnie, and Gloria, and a close extended family with strong social and cultural Jewish values.  Young Jerry was an avid theatergoer and sports fan who took full advantage of all New York had to offer. Well into his nineties, he shared vivid memories of seeing Jackie Robinson play ball, seeing Dame Judith Anderson and Sir Laurence Olivier act on the stage, and seemingly seeing almost every movie made in the 1930s.

Jerry grew up in the FDR years and was a lifelong, committed New Deal Democrat. After receiving his B.S.S. from New York’s City College in 1943, he served with an Army engineering unit in France during World War II. He considered the War a formative period of his life, and still remembered and discussed the campaigns of the War in detail seventy years later.

After the War, Jerry received an M.A. degree from Columbia University in 1947 and then joined the University of Michigan’s social psychology graduate program in its first year.  In graduate school he met and married Maizie Gurin, a clinical psychologist and the mother of his son Joel; they were married for eight years before divorcing. He received his Ph.D. in 1956.

Jerry’s early graduate school years coincided with the launch of Michigan’s Survey Research Center and then the Institute for Social Research (ISR), where he was a founder. As he recalled in an oral history interview with his family, those years “had the excitement of feeling you were in a brand new field. What I loved about survey work was that it was a systematic way of examining an issue and presenting the data to a broader population. It was a way of studying contemporary history.”

His first major research project was a study of the 1952 election, published as the book The Voter Decides. The Survey Research Center had done a small study of the 1948 election that predicted the close Dewey-Truman race more accurately than pollsters had. This success led the Center to plan a larger study for 1952, and Jerry partnered with political scientist Warren Miller to lead the project. “We did the first major political science study” of its kind, he said, long before pre-election polling became an industry. The groundbreaking study used new sampling methods to predict elections and developed the concept of party identification and the factors that affect it. Jerry maintained a strong lifelong interest in politics and public opinion on contemporary issues:  He continued to read The New York Times and watch MSNBC and Fareed Zakaria until the very end of his life.

The study for which he is best known was published as the 1960 book Americans View Their Mental Health, with co-authors Joseph Veroff and Sheila Feld. This Survey Research Center study was commissioned by the NIMH Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health. As Jerry recalled, “The psychiatric movement was just beginning to flourish, and they wanted to get a sense of what the demand on psychiatric resources would be in the next generation.” To answer that question, “we decided not to study the professional people involved in the referral process, but what makes an ordinary person ready to go for help. We called it the study of modern living – all about talking to people about the problems they faced and what they did about those problems.”

“Jerry’s book is a seminal, foundational work that helped set the direction of U.S. mental health policy for decades,” says Dr. Harold “Woody” Neighbors, C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health at Michigan State University. “It represented a paradigm shift” away from a medical approach that focused on psychiatric diagnosis. “Jerry’s book did something remarkable for that time in history by studying the private, inner psychological lives of individuals. The fact that this perspective seems obvious today is a testament to how influential his thinking was on how we now study mental health.” Among other contributions, the study served as a catalyst for the establishment of community mental health centers.

In the 1970s, Jerry worked with his wife Patricia – now the University of Michigan’s Nancy Cantor Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Psychology and Women’s Studies – on “a program of research directed toward providing opportunities for recent arrivals of large cohorts of Black graduate students,” recalls Dr. James Jackson, Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at the University. That research led ISR to fund a National Survey of Black Americans and ultimately establish the Program for Research on Black Americans (PRBA). “Jerry’s grant and research experience was indispensable in funding, designing, and executing the sampling and field work on the first National Survey of Black Americans in 1979-1980 and the nearly 17 local, national, and international surveys that followed over the next 40 years,” says Dr. Jackson. “Without his guidance, experience, and dedication to giving ‘Voice to African Americans,’ the successful PRBA would not have existed.”   

Jerry was also a highly valued faculty member of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education in the 1970s and 1980s. As Emeritus Professor of Higher Education Dr. Marvin Peterson remembers, Jerry was brought into the Center because “it lacked any faculty with expertise in research methods and in the study of students. This was at a time of extensive student activism on campuses across the country and early concern for Black and Latino students.  Jerry's expertise on both was a much needed contribution. He taught courses both for Center students as they entered the program and at the penultimate stage of their program as they developed dissertation proposals. He was also central to the Center's development of a more conceptual and theoretical approach to the study of students in higher education.” 

Jerry officially retired in 1993 as Professor of Higher Education in the School of Education, and Research Scientist at ISR’s Survey Research Center. At that time he was the Principal Investigator of the Michigan Student Study (MSS) within the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives (OAMI), and he continued work on the MSS until his “re-retirement” at age 92. The MSS helped shape national debate about the educational benefits of diversity in higher education, and provided evidence for the University’s successful defense of its affirmative action programs before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003.

Jerry’s influence, guidance, and mentorship had a major positive impact on a generation of researchers at OAMI. “Jerry was a mainstay of encouragement and support, and a welcome beacon of wisdom to the OAMI office, which was full of vibrant, brilliant young professionals. He was always willing to offer sage advice or to just be a listening ear,” says Dr. Katrina Wade-Golden, Deputy Chief Diversity Officer for the University of Michigan’s Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

Jerry’s many family, friends, students, and colleagues remember him with love, gratitude, and admiration for his unique qualities. His children and grandchildren describe him as both brilliant and wise, and remarkably kind, supportive, thoughtful, accepting, and engaged in their lives. They remember his love, his humor, and his joy in life, whether playing poker with his grandkids (and beating them at high-low), going to their high school and college plays, taking them to University of Michigan football games, or just staying up talking about school, work, movies, and the world, long into the night. For three of his grandchildren who lived with Jerry and Pat for years – Chloe, Bryan, and Brooklyn – Jerry played an especially important role in their upbringing and their lives.  

Jerry embodied tikkun olam, the Jewish call to heal the world. His caring, empathy, and commitment extended well beyond the world he grew up in: A Jewish son of the Bronx, he became an advocate for racial equity and the proud patriarch of a multiracial family. He had a strong sense of justice, and he combined realism about the state of the world with optimism and hope for the future. For everyone who knew him, loved him, and will miss him deeply, Jerry Gurin made the world a much better place.

For the full tributes to Jerry from those quoted here, please see below. For more stories from family and friends, please see the Stories section of this website. 


Dr. Harold “Woody” Neighbors: Setting the direction of U.S. mental health policy

Gerald Gurin (“Jerry”) was the lead author (along with Joseph Veroff and Sheila Feld) on the classic book, Americans View Their Mental Health (AVTMH) published in 1960 by the NIMH Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health. Jerry’s book is a seminal, foundational work that helped set the direction of U.S. mental health policy for decades. More importantly, AVTMH represented a significant paradigm shift in the way mental health researchers thought about the application of rigorous survey research methods to understanding how best to meet the emotional needs of the nation. Until the publication of AVTMH, mental health surveys were dominated by a medical approach that privileged psychiatric diagnosis above personal conceptualizations of distress and subsequent decisions about how to solve personal problems. Jerry’s book did something remarkable for that time in history. Jerry’s work made it clear that it was the private, inner psychological lives of individuals that dictated what may or may not be done to cope with distress, and that seeking professional treatment was but one of many alternatives people considered. The fact that today, this perspective seems obvious, is a testament to how influential Gerald Gurin’s thinking was on how we now study mental health. The ideas and information contained in Americans View Their Mental Health are as relevant today as they were when it was first published. 


Written by Dr. Harold “Woody” Neighbors, C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health, Michigan State University

​Dr. James Jackson: Building the Program for Research on Black Americans

Gerald Gurin played a pivotal and instrumental role in the creation of the Program for Research on Black Americans (PRBA). Growing out of the pioneering work of Patricia and Jerry Gurin in establishing a program of research directed toward providing opportunities for recent arrivals of large cohorts of Black graduate students, in the mid-70s the Survey Research Center and Research Center for Group Dynamics made a modest investment in exploring the possibility of launching a National Survey of the African American population. Jerry joined this effort as a senior adviser and in rapid order became a full collaborator and mentor to the relatively young faculty and graduate students working on the fledgling project. His grant and research experience was an indispensable aspect of writing applications, receiving funding, designing questionnaires, and executing the sampling and field work on the first National Survey of Black Americans in 1979-1980 and the nearly 17 local, national, and international surveys that followed over the next 40 years. Without his guidance, experience, and dedication to giving “Voice to African Americans” the successful PRBA would not have existed.   

Written by Dr. James S. Jackson, Research Professor, Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research; Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan


Recent stories

From Jerry's memorial: Remembering my father

Shared by Joel Gurin on May 22, 2019

On May 12, our family held a memorial for my father at the Michigan League in Ann Arbor. We are tremendously grateful to the more than 200 people who came together to remember him then. Here are my remarks from that day about my father and his deep connections to the people who came and the wonderful family and community they represent. 

We’re going to hear from many wonderful speakers today. They’re going to share their memories and perspectives on my father as colleagues, as friends, and as family. Before they begin, I’d like to share some of my own thoughts to help tie those different threads of his life together. And I’d like to share some of my father’s own memories that show how he became the person he was, from conversations I had with him and from some interviews that my son Ben and I did with him about two years ago.

My father did research on group identity in his career, and he was a proud member of many groups himself. He was a Jew, an American, a Democrat, a New Yorker and a Michigander, a University of Michigan social psychology professor, and a beloved, central figure in his family and in his network of colleagues and friends. He identified with all these groups, but not to the exclusion of any other. Jerry was one of the most inclusive people any of us has ever known. He was first and foremost a kind, compassionate human being. And he was, as we would say in Yiddish, a real mensch.

His Jewish identity developed first, growing up in the Bronx with his immigrant parents Morris and Sarah, and his brothers and sisters, Ann, Arnie, and Gloria. My father’s family was not really religious, but they were strongly committed to the Jewish community, Jewish history, and Jewish values. When my father talked about his bar mitzvah more than 80 years later, he still remembered how he felt a deep sense of history participating in a ritual that Jews had followed for thousands of years, even when they had to practice their religion in secret.

He and I both felt that sense of history very personally when we traveled to Israel together a decade ago. We had the overwhelming experience of going to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and using their digital archives to find records about his grandmother and his father’s family.

But we also went to East Jerusalem to try to better understand the lives and the suffering of the Palestinians. Because for my father, being Jewish was about learning from our own history of suffering to be compassionate to others.It was about being committed to making the world better for everyone. He embodied the Jewish concept of tikkun olam – the commitment to heal the world.

My father also identified as an American. He was often frustrated by America: He saw in his life how America could “go crazy” from time to time, as he put it, and he felt we were in one of those crazy periods now. But he believed in what America should be, the America that his parents and other immigrants came here to find – a land of opportunity, as the saying goes, with liberty and justice for all.

Jerry was a child of the FDR era. He remembered being about 10 years old, shortly after FDR was elected, and listening with his family to FDR’s first Fireside Chat.He could still describe vividly how they sat in the living room, tuned in to their old radio, and heard FDR’s voice come through, feeling as if the President was talking directly to them. FDR was President until my father was 22 years old, and those years shaped his world view. He was part of the Greatest Generation and served in Europe during World War II, a critical part of his life that he remembered very clearly as long as he lived. And he became a staunch New Deal Democrat and identified with those values for the rest of his life.

My father was also a real lifelong New Yorker, although he loved Ann Arbor and his life here for more than 70 years. He grew up going into Manhattan with his family to see movies, plays on and off Broadway, and even the Metropolitan Opera, where you could get tickets in the second balcony for 55 cents. He also developed a New Yorker’s passionate interest in politics and world affairs. Even though his father Morris only had a sixth grade education, he read The New York Times every day, and my father became a lifelong Times subscriber too.

Jerry was there at the birth of social psychology as a field: He joined the social psych graduate program at the U of M very early on, and Michigan was one of the very first universities in the country to start such a program. He went there, he said, because he was very interested in “what makes people tick,” as he put it, and what motivates them. And he was also very curious about the social influences on how people develop those motivations. So he joined the “brand new field” of social psychology: “sociology and personality study combined.”

My father loved survey research, he said, because it was “a systematic way of examining an issue [as] a way of studying contemporary history.” He went on to become a founder of the Institute for Social Research and to a very long career at the U of M, working at the university until he was 92 years old. He worked as long as he could because he thrived on the intellectual challenge, the chance to address social issues, and the chance to work with colleagues he cared about.

My father’s work also shaped his personal life profoundly. Through his work he met Pat, his wife for 54 years, with whom he had such a deep, loving, lifelong bond. And through his work, often in collaboration with Pat, he engaged with the issues of race, ethnicity, and diversity that were so important to him. As he became close to many African-American and Latino and Latina colleagues, he told me he appreciated how their experiences resonated with his own experience growing up Jewish. He felt they all shared what it’s like to be both part of America but separate from the dominant American culture, with your own vibrant, connected, and often joyous culture and community. My father relished America’s diversity and he was proud to be part of it.

At the end of the day, what mattered most to my father were his connections to other people – his colleagues, his family, and his friends. And it mattered to him that he mattered to them. He told Ben and me that he largely modeled himself on his own father. The lesson he learned from Morris, he said, was that “the most important thing for a man is to be someone that others could depend on.” My grandfather played that role for his extended family and in the New York Jewish community. And I think my parents, Jerry and Pat, played that kind of role for this wonderful extended family and community that all of us here represent.

I’ve been extremely lucky to be their son, in so many ways. I always hope that I can be as much of a mensch in my life as my father was in his. I loved him deeply and unambivalently, admired him tremendously, and learned so much from him, all my life.

In closing, I want to share a few of my father’s own words. I had many conversations with him during the last year and he often talked about how he felt facing the end of his life. As he said, he was determined that “I will not go kvetching into that good night.” He felt tremendously fortunate that he had lived to the age of 96, that he had no serious illness or pain, and, most of all, that he was able to end his days at home, surrounded by a loving multigenerational family. He was immensely grateful to Pat, who was so much the core of his life and the source of his strength; to Jenny, who helped and supported and cared for him in so many ways; and Brooklyn, you were just a joy to him every single day.

A few years ago, when he was 93, my father talked about facing his mortality in an interview with my cousin Lynn and her daughter Maraya, who are here today. Here’s what he said:

I’m not dwelling on it and I’m not scared of it. It’s simply a reality when you’ve lived 93 years. There is so much that I still want to do, so much life in me, but there is the reality.

I’m handling it better than I thought I would. Better doesn’t mean profound thoughts, or great revelations, or great insights on the subject of death.I mean better in the sense that I’m enjoying things, [and] enjoying life to me means still being connected. I just enjoy days with people.I just treasure them because there’s a realization it’s not going to go on forever.

I have no regrets about the road not taken, no things that I could’ve or should’ve done differently. Equanimity is the word that would describe how I’m dealing with life. Equanimity means acceptance. It is a kind of evenness of things. It’s being at peace, accepting that I’ve done the best I could, and it’s not bad.It’s a positive, even-keeled acceptance.

The important things in life are the relationships you form and the meaning of those relationships to you.That’s what sustains you.That’s the basic thing. And then to find meaning in the work that you do; to be involved in the world; and to find your purpose.

As much as he loved life, I think my father was ready at the end. The one thing that made him sad about dying, he said, was that he wouldn’t get to see how everyone’s “story” played out. He cared about all our stories, from those of us who are now in our seventies and eighties to the great-grandchildren who haven’t yet been born.

I know I will remember my father and his story, and will miss him, with so much love, to the last day of my life. I hope that you will remember him with love and joy too for as long as you can.

I’m very glad to be here to remember my father and celebrate his life with you today. He would be overwhelmed with joy to see all of you here: Your coming here today is the greatest possible tribute that he could have. All of you here really represent his legacy. Thank you so much for being here so we can remember him together.

How my father shaped my life

Shared by Joel Gurin on May 5, 2019

As I’ve been preparing for Jerry’s memorial next weekend, I’ve been going over many memories and writings from the past. All of us in Jerry’s family contributed to a book of memories in 2017 for his 95th birthday celebration. Here is my letter to him from that book, to share something of what he meant to me in my life.

Dear Dad,

It’s a little overwhelming to know what to say. 95 years – and I’ve been around for 63 of them! I feel incredibly blessed that we’ve had so many decades together, and feel that we’ve gotten closer than ever over the years.

As time has gone by, I’ve realized more and more how much we are cut from the same cloth. People often remark on how much we look alike, except for the facial hair: You only had a beard for a year or two, until you decided it made you “look like Methuselah,” and I grew mine back after taking a hard look in the mirror each time I shaved it off.

But beyond that resemblance, I’ve come to realize how much we share the same interests and passions. Math and science – the love of numbers, fascination with the universe, and respect for data. Great theater and movies, both old (including the really old) and new. Psychology as a context for understanding relationships and the world. And our shared Jewish identity: Our amazing trip to Israel together was one of the best and most meaningful weeks of my life.

While I didn’t inherit your love of football and basketball for some reason, we do share a passionate interest in politics, which may be the ultimate high-stakes sport. And in that arena we always root for the same team. I think your anger at the Tea Party kept you young for many years, and I see that Trump will keep you engaged and energized now – a silver lining for what we’re all enduring in this “interesting” administration.

I’ve tried to emulate your qualities as a person, and hope I’ve managed to pick up some of them. You are a mensch in every sense of the word. You taught me early in life that a mensch has to be able to feel, deeply and authentically, even when feelings are painful. You may be the most genuinely kind person I know. In one recent conversation in Ann Arbor, you said that you simply didn’t understand meanness – you couldn’t imagine taking pleasure in someone else’s humiliation – and I can’t remember ever seeing you do a single mean-spirited thing. But your kindness and empathy are also your strength. You have an inspiring commitment to social justice, and a fury at injustice, that has been a compass for your actions and decisions in life.

I remember many points in my life when you helped me find my path. You fostered my interest in math and science from a very early age, with science kits, trips to the planetarium, and an amazing box of gadgets that introduced me to probability and statistics. I still remember the mechanized coin-tossing machine and a plastic-and-BB’s contraption that demonstrated normal distribution (I’ve learned since then that it’s called a Galton Box). I also remember you gave me a book on probability and gambling as a kid, and we talked about going to a casino together when I turned 21. It took about four more decades before we made it to the craps and blackjack tables at FireKeepers Casino, but I’m glad we finally did!

When I reached my late teens you helped me rediscover those early interests. The summer after my freshman year in college I was planning to major in psychology – my version of going into the family business – when you and Pat gently encouraged me to consider other options. (I think your exact words were, “For God’s sake, please try something else!”) I settled on majoring in biochemistry and found that it fit. Then, as I was pursuing my major, you were the first person to suggest that I might follow Isaac Asimov’s model, combining my interests in English and science to become a science writer. I didn’t quite see it at the time, but soon that path opened up and I was launched on what has been a challenging, rewarding, and multifaceted career.

While you helped me find this particular path, I know you and Pat would have supported any direction I chose to take in work and in life. You both have always been encouraging and positive, have reminded me of my value when I most needed to hear it, and have helped me face the future with energy and optimism. I’m grateful to both of you for that steady and loving support over the years.

I know that the last few years have not been easy for you as age has started to have its inevitable impact. But you swore after you turned 90 that “I will not go kvetching into that good night,” and I believe it. I admire your spirit, your equanimity, and your wonderful engagement with your multi-generational household. I’m still learning from you, as you show us all how to live in the moment, appreciate life with gratitude, and keep trying to practice tikkun olam – healing the world – in whatever ways we can. So let’s say l’chaim – to this day, to your life, and to all our lives together!

Your loving son,

Joel

Grandaddy Singing to Us

Shared by Chloe Gurin-Sands on March 16, 2019

I will always remember Grandaddy singing to us. In the living room, with one of us on his lap, he would often sing a song called Oyfn Pripet shik/At the fireplace. Here is a video of him singing this song to Brooklyn. Lyrics below. 

"A flame burns in the fireplace, the room is warming up, as the teacher drills the children in the Hebrew alphabet (alef-beyz): Remember dear children, what you are learning here. Repeat it over and over. When you grow older you will understand that this alphabet contains the tears and weeping of our people. When you grow old and weary you will find comfort and strength in these letters."