Gail Furman is a psychologist in New York City, a wealthy political activist, and a well-known funder of leftist causes. She is the former wife of New York real-estate developer Jay Furman, who died in 2015. She is also the mother of Jesse Furman, a federal judge who was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by President Barack Obama, and Jason Furman, who served with the three-member Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama.
Born in 1946, Gail Furman is a native of Queens, New York. After graduating from Forest Hills High School, she obtained an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a doctorate in psychology from New York University. During her student days, Furman became involved in activism against the Vietnam War, and in 1964 she worked with the Mississippi “Freedom Summer” project which sought to register new black voters in that state. Furman also worked with the Head Start early-education program in Detroit, and she helped older students prepare themselves for their SAT exams.
In 1970, Furman opened a private practice as a social worker and psychotherapist helping troubled adolescents, a practice which she has maintained ever since. From 1973-90, she was also employed as a child psychologist at two of the most elite private schools in New York City, the Fieldston School and the Dalton School. And in 1991, Furman co-founded the Family Academy, an alternative public school in Harlem.
From 1994 to 2011, Furman was a board member and later a consultant for the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, now known as the Women’s Refugee Commission. In that role, she traveled to a number of foreign nations to work with people in refugee camps. Also during that period, Furman served a stint as an advisory board member for Human Rights Watch's “Children in Conflict” initiative.
Furman says that after the 2000 presidential election, she “became very political.” In 2000, she worked in Israel on a project that encouraged both Israeli and Palestinian children to draw pictures expressing their respective goals and aspirations. In connection with that initiative, Furman wrote the foreword for Harold Koplewicz's 2000 book, Turbulent Times, Prophetic Dreams.
In 2004 Furman became a board member of the Democracy Alliance, a major funder of leftist groups and causes. That same year, she helped activist David Brock launch Media Matters for America, and she served on the organization's founding board of directors. In 2004 as well, Furman actively supported General Wesley Clark's unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, and she hosted a fundraiser for Clark at her home in Greenwich Village, New York.
In 2006 Furman helped fund the establishment of Vote Vets, a progressive organization of military veterans promoting a variety of leftist agendas. Also in '06, she donated $20,000 to the Secretary Of State Project.
Over the years, Furman has served variously on the directors' boards and/or advisory boards of such organizations as the Brennan Center for Justice, Human Rights First, J Street, the Tides Foundation, Fundacion Amistad, and the Child Study Center of NYU Medical School, where she was a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry. In addition, Furman is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
In 2000, Furman established an eponymous, New York-based philanthropy known as the Furman Foundation, which funds numerous leftist organizations. Through this foundation, where Furman serves as president, she has funneled large sums of money to such entities as the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for American Progress, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Free Press, Human Rights First, J Street, Media Matters For America, the Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, the People for the American Way Foundation, and the Tides Center.
Moreover, Furman has personally contributed money to the political campaigns of such notable Democrats as Cory Booker, Carol Moseley Braun, Sherrod Brown, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Tammy Duckworth, Donna Edwards, Russ Feingold, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Al Gore, Hakeem Jeffries, Joe Kennedy III, John Kerry, Jerrold Nadler, Barack Obama, Chellie Pingree, Jared Polis, Charles Rangel, Ken Salazar, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Charles Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, and Anthony Weiner.
Furman also has made monetary donations to ActBlue, EMILY's List, MoveOn.org, and Planned Parenthood Votes, among others.