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Roz Garber

b. 1950

Roz Garber was born in 1950 and raised in Toronto. Her family was active in the Reform movement, and as a young adult, Garber was a leader in the Reform temple youth group, receiving scholarships to attend UAHC summer camps in the US. After earning a BA in Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto, Garber left Toronto to get a Masters in Jewish Education at Brandeis. It was there that she met her husband, who was studying for a Masters in Jewish Communal Service. Garber and her husband moved to Toronto after they graduated and worked in the Jewish community. Through this work, they became actively involved in the issue of Soviet Jewry. In 1975, they were chosen to visit the Soviet Union on a secret mission run by the Jewish Agency. During their three-week trip, they met with Refuseniks, such as Anatoly Sharansky, gave them educational materials, and shared information with them about Israel. In Kishinev, they were intercepted by the KGB, who followed them throughout the rest of their trip and prevented them from contacting more Refuseniks. Upon their return from the Soviet Union, Garber and her husband embarked on speaking tours to share their experiences and educate the American Jewish community about conditions for Jews in the Soviet Union. Garber has continued to devote her volunteer and professional time to the Jewish community. She had worked at the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts and at Hadassah Boston. She has three daughters, who share her passion for Jewish communal service.  


Scope and Content Note

Roz details her Canadian upbringing and the tensions in her family resulting from her choice to earn her masters in the United States at Brandeis University, as women were not encouraged to leave the country for school. She remembers meeting her husband on the first day of class and the choice to shift from identifying as a Reform Jew to Conservative due to his influence. Roz then describes their journey to the Soviet Union to educate Refuseniks on Israel and supply them with necessary materials for survival. Roz attempted to empower the Refuseniks she met, illuminating how dreary their lives were in Russia and the potential for happiness in Israel. The Jews they encountered in the Soviet Union were often undercover members of the KGB attempting to catch those who aided refuseniks. She and her husband went on speaking tours across the United States to tell their story, which Roz describes as an emotional undertaking. In America, Roz constantly looked over her shoulder and could not trust the Jews she met because the prospect that they could be potential spies continued to haunt her. Her experience, she says, taught her the importance of activism, that injustice abroad was the same as injustice at home. She was inspired to cement herself within the Jewish community, leading to her involvement in several Jewish organizations. Finally, she describes her daughters' diverse involvements in Judaism and how it perpetuates her legacy.



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How to cite this page

Oral History of Roz Garber . Interviewed by Judith Rosenbaum. 26 July 2000. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 1, 2024) <http://jwa.org/oralhistories/garber-roz>.

Oral History of Roz Garber by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.