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Alvin I. Fine ’37

Alvin I. Fine ’37, January 19, 1999, in Napa, California. Alvin was senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El for 16 years and one of San Francisco’s most well known and respected religious and social justice leaders. After graduating from Reed, he studied at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, receiving an MHL degree and rabbinical ordination in 1942. He served as chaplain with the U.S. Army in China and Burma, earning a Bronze Star. After the war, he worked for several years as assistant to the president at Hebrew Union College. In 1948 he moved to San Francisco, where he became senior rabbi for Congregation Emanu-El. There he became known for his brilliant sermons and oratorical style, for his championship of civil rights and civil liberties, and for his success in bringing harmony to his congregation. He spoke out against Senator McCarthy’s anti-Communist witch hunts, urged passage of civil rights bills, and served as regional board chair of the American Civil Liberties Union. He invited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., author Maya Angelou, and other advocates for racial justice to speak to the congregation, and he urged his followers to oppose segregated housing. He was also a charter member of the Human Rights Commission in San Francisco. In 1964, a mild heart attack caused him to leave his position at the temple for a less stressful situation. He took a post as professor of humanities at San Francisco State University, where he remained until his retirement in 1980. During this time, he continued to be active in his congregation and also served on the board of trustees of Reed College. He is survived by a daughter, two sons, a sister, and three grandchildren. His wife of 24 years died in 1973. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Alvin I. Fine Scholarship Fund at Reed College.

Appeared in Reed magazine: May 1999

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