While interviewing Roz Garber, one thing that became apparent was her love and devotion to education. She stated, “education is the best thing to happen to any child.” From her childhood to her career — to being a mother and grandmother, and to her post-career life — she has continued to learn, persevere, and inspire other children.
Growing up in Detroit during the 1940s, Roz lived in a large Jewish neighborhood. However, her family moved to the west side of Detroit when she was eight, and she found herself living in a whole new world. Her practice of Judaism diminished as she was the only Jew at her school and was too far from any synagogue to belong.
In addition to being an outsider, as a Jew, Roz also experienced discrimination for being a woman. Roz had a love for reading, math, the library, and going to school. She attended Cody High School, and had a favorite teacher, Elsie Schlussel, who happened to be Jewish; Elsie was a teacher who believed that girls were smart, could read, and be just as great as everyone else. Ms. Schlussel was one of her early inspirations and why Roz to become a teacher — because of her belief in girls and the amount of impact that teachers can have on a student. Roz found a love for working with children with disabilities, so she got her master’s degree from Wayne State, becoming a teacher in learning disabilities and math.
Because of Roz’s lack of Jewish education in her childhood, she knew that she wanted to raise her children under more religious values and for them to have a strong Jewish identity. She sent her children to Camp Tamarack, and they loved it.
After becoming a widow at the age of 54, Roz became more independent and decided to travel the world, visiting Europe, China, Africa and India.
However, the most meaningful place that she visited was Israel. Roz became a volunteer in Israel, where she was able to interact with children, especially those who recently immigrated from Ethiopia. The six-week program included four weeks teaching in schools and the other two weeks touring the country. Roz made a strong connection with the kids, even through their broken English. The kids lived in patriarchal households, helped with in-house chores, since both parents worked all day, and soon were in line for army service, just like every other Israeli.
The army is a very great equalizer in Israel, and it makes them Israeli.
Roz was struck by the way the army gave those children an identity just like every other kid in Israel, no matter what situation they came from. When reflecting on this incredible opportunity, Roz was very thankful that she had the privilege to go help; this program inspired her to increase the amount of volunteering that she did in the Metro Detroit community. She began to volunteer at Yad Ezra to help more people gain opportunities.
When I asked Roz for some words of advice for future generations, she mentioned the need for kids to know where they come from and be proud of it — and don't always trust what is on the internet.
For Roz, kindness is always a must:
There's no excuse for not being caring.