Barbara Tobin

Co-Director, Friendship Circle


Barbara and her two older brothers grew up in Castro Valley, California. Her mother was born in Berlin to a German father and an American mother. Her father was born in Baltimore to parents from Eastern Europe and raised in the coal mining hills of West Virginia. Neither of her parents observed any of the Jewish holidays, including Passover and Hanukkah. Yet she attended religious school and she always knew she was Jewish, and the Holocaust horror was personal: her mother’s favorite aunt, Cora Berliner, worked on the Kindertransport and died helping children escape.

Characterizing herself as a “hippie” when she finished high school, she moved to Israel to live and work for 6 months on a kibbutz as part of an Ulpan program (Hebrew language immersion).

After her stint in Israel, she moved back to California and worked in a recreation program for handicapped adults while attending Chabot Junior College, SF State University (B.A Psychology), and Cal State Hayward (M.A. Public Administration).

Other jobs she had included a contract with the Navy work as teacher in a drug and alcohol prevention program.

Barbara was married and divorce twice.  After her second divorce, she was living in Southern California and came out as a lesbian. Because San Bernadino County wasn't conducive to being gay, she moved north to Napa. However, she found Napa too conservative and ultimately found a good fit in Sebastopol.

Barbara ultimately met Cass, who worked at the motion-control equipment company Compumotor in their quality division.  They moved in together and two years later Barbara gave birth to their baby Cora.  Cass and Barbara will be celebrating their 31st anniversary in October – highlighted with a cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest.

In a desire to be part of the Jewish community, they joined Congregation Ner Shalom.  This led to a   Jewish professional life – as a Jewish Community Agency (JCA) board member, Jewish Community Center (JCC) Jewish Film Series Director, and co-director of the non-profit, “Remember Us” The Holocaust B'nai Mitzvah Project.

With another change of career, Barbara became full-time artist, creating functional art with fused glass. 

Barbara missed the organizational life, so for seven years she worked for Jewish Family and Childrens Services (JFCS) using her administrative skills in Community Outreach and Development.  Much of her fulfillment came from working with the volunteers.  In January she semi-retired.

Barbara's passion is “contemporary” line-dancing. She is a teacher, choreographer, and student – involved five/six times a week.

The Jewish Community Center just recently offered her a part-time, job sharing position with Jalena. Barbara's responsibilities include some of the luncheons, excursions and grant writing.

Welcome aboard!