As the saying goes, if you want something done, ask a busy person. But the saying goes the other way, too. It’s not just that busy people are reliable, reliable people become busy. Tanya Garber manages to juggle her responsibilities as a wife, mother, community Rebbetzin and radiographer with great flourish.
Tanya grew up in Sydney, Australia, before relocating to the UK when she met and married her husband, Rabbi Alan Garber, who she met at the JLE in Golders Green. They relocated to Gateshead to enable Alan to pursue his passion for Torah learning, which would ultimately lead to obtaining his rabbinical semicha. It was a time of great self-development for them both, as Tanya reflects, “During that period we learnt a lot about ourselves and each other”.
That was 16 years ago and in that time the Garbers have lived and worked in Newcastle, Leeds and Sydney and have, for the past five years been developing the Jewish community in Shenley. Tanya considers a key part of role as being an enabler and a source of encouragement for her husband’s community work whilst providing stability and a nurturing environment for their five children, known affectionately as, ‘The Garber Gang’. The whole family is involved in Shabbos hospitality. Everyone has a role to help guests feel welcome and looked after from the homemade challohs to sharing ideas, setting the table and singing songs. A feature of the Garbers’ Shabbos table is that everyone introduces themselves and shares a highlight from their past week. “It’s a great way to create a sharing and inclusive atmosphere and for people to focus on the positives within their own lives”.
The Garbers have been living in Shenley for 5 years. It is one of fastest-growing United Synagogue communities. The community has recently developed its own shul building and has been marking this with an inspiring educational programme about Judaism in the 21st Century. The inaugural address was made by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, followed by Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz and most recently a women’s panel with Leonie Lewis and Abi Kurzer. Speakers to come include MP Oliver Dowden and Director of Aish UK, Rabbi Daniel Rowe.
Shenley is a very warm and welcoming community set in the beautiful countryside, yet minutes from Borehamwood, Radlett and Edgware. Rabbi Garber once pointed out that the word Shenley can be broken down into two parts.‘Shein’ – which in Yiddish means beautiful and ‘Li’- in Hebrew means, ‘to me’. So Shenley means, ‘Beautiful to me’. We have seen so much growth since moving here and believe that every person within it counts and we have made genuine connections with so many people here”.
The Garbers have brought a number of initiatives to the community. They fundraised for a Sukkah for the purpose of each year enabling a different family to experience the joy of eating and hosting in a Sukkah and participating in the annual Shenley Sukkah crawl. Kiddush in one sukkah. Dips and hamotzi in the next sukkah. Main course at the Garbers, where Tanya serves hundreds of her famous meatballs, salads and rice. Ice cream and desserts in the next sukkah and finally sweets and benching in the last sukkah. It is a very sociable experience and everyone looks forward to it.
Each night of Chanukah, we continue the #ShareTheLight project in Shenley, by taking a very special SUJC free-standing community Chanukiah (designed by shul member Howard Ash) to a different hosting street and encouraging friends and neighbours to come together. Spreading and sharing the light; enjoying some refreshments and the warmth and spirit of Chanukah.
Shenley does Purim with real pizzazz, and themes with the Garbers have included Africa theme with drum workshop; Circus theme incorporating a circus skills workshop, Bollywood (with a kosher Bollywood dance workshop) and delicious indian food and an open microphone Comedy evening showcasing local talent. The Garbers rise to the occasion, with suitably themed costumes which makes for smashing photo opportunities!
The Garbers always hosted a communal seder in their living room, spilling into their conservatory. For the past two years, the communal seder has been in a hall and participants have enjoyed a novel and interactive seder with plenty of activities and opportunities for involvement as well as parody songs and jokes. Everyone gets involved and there are challenges for families and for the children.
Tanya has a rich and varied professional career in radiography, spanning 20 years in both the clinical and commercial fields. She was the Digital Radiology Applications Specialist for General Electric covering Australia and New Zealand and her clinical work also took her to experiences earned her the moniker as the ‘Flying Radiographer’, working in remote rural communities.
Tanya currently works part-time with the Royal Free Hospital Trust and has recently completed her Masters in Mammography. Tanya is a passionate advocate in women’s health, empowering women in self-examination and understanding the importance of regular breast screening. She recently hosted a pink challah make, raising money and awareness for Breast Cancer Research.
When Tanya first moved to London, she had a near close-encounter with royalty. As she explains, “I always worked a shorter day on Friday to be back home in time for Shabbos. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered the report for Her Majesty, the queen, the following Monday. My husband consoled me by reminding me that I had given up meeting Her Majesty the Queen, to meet the Shabbos Queen,
Tanya is a photographer and artist in her spare time and enjoys using her creative skills in a very special way for her guests. Whether it is parsha-themed culinary delights for Shabbos, making a Mount Sinai Cake for all the children to decorate for Shavuos or recreating the Krias Yam Suf (splitting of the Reed Sea) in her hallway for Pesach, the whole Garber family enjoy ‘going all out’ in order to give their guests an enjoyable and memorable experience. This encourages and stimulates conversation, discussion and learning.
Tanya enjoys cooking and preparing food for her guests. She actively shares Passover recipes and tips on various online groups and enjoys experimenting with new recipes, most recently vegan and gluten free. Together with her daughters Sara, Miri and Shira, they enjoy making specially shaped challahs for auspicious times of the year. Schlissel (key) challahs for the first shabbos after Pesach “unlock” the blessings of sustenance for the coming year. Luchos (ten commandment tablets) challahs for Shavuos, spiral and ladder challos for Rosh Hashana and numerical 12 and 13 challahs for bar and bas mitzvah members. The children all help with ‘mitzvah deliveries’ on Friday to various members in the community.
Tanya celebrates her birthday in a special way. She has, for the past 6 years arranged gala fundraising events in her home. She combines artistic activities for women (often ceramics or painting) with raising money for a good cause. Collecting a large number of sponsored prizes for a grand raffle has raised thousands of pounds for various charities including World Jewish Relief, Jewish Women’s Aid, Chana, Camp Simcha, Chai Cancer Care and this coming week for Pancreatic Cancer UK (in the merit of a refuah shleima for her dear friend, Yocheved bas Sara).
The Garbers have always marked the ‘festive winter season’ with their own special minchag. “Every year”, says Tanya, “we bake multiple batches of homemade biscuits and package them up together with some treats and a note. Then on Christmas Day, we drop them off to emergency service workers- police, ambulance, fireman, doctors, nurses and radiographers. Their vital work doesn’t stop because it’s a bank holiday. They are always really grateful and it gives us a way to show our appreciation to the many men and women who work on their major holiday (and all year round) in order to care and provide for the whole community.”
Although all of these things keep her extremely busy, it is obvious that Tanya would not have it any other way, and she makes the most of every moment. Even the massive amount of time spent in her car, driving her children back and forth to school from Shenley to Dollis Hill is used as a time to connect and share some precious quality time, bringing a positive spin to something that could be seen as quite mundane. That seems to be her general outlook on life, and is what helps her to do so much. “Everything that I do, I do it with simcha.” She shrugs her shoulders, “If something is important, you just make the time for it.”