November 24, 2023
Ireland, a magical, mystical land… home to the Druids and shadowy Firbolgs of Irish mythology, home to such luminaries as Joyce, Shaw, and Yeats… Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first female president, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell, celebrated Irish astrophysicist. Ireland, Europe’s Emerald Isle, was a safe-haven for my family during the anguish of WWII and the Holocaust.
The bond between the Irish and the Jews appears most natural in light of shared experience – a struggle for independence, acceptance of their faith – and mystical roots. Did you know that Irish mythology includes a tale of Noah’s Ark? It is no accident that Ireland is the only country in Europe where Jewish blood has not been spilt as the result of bigotry.
If you ask anyone, they’ll say to you, Ireland is a Catholic country. Who ever heard of an Irish Jew? Not many have, but it was to this emerald sanctuary that my grandparents came with their family in the spring of 1930, and settled in Dublin, south of the River Liffey.
Originally from Warsaw, Poland, my poppy, Rev. Wolf Garb, and Nanny Rachel, felt a rising tide of antisemitism sweep over Europe, and they quickly moved west from Poland to Belgium, then to England, and, eventually, to Ireland, where my family enjoyed peace, prosperity, and religious freedom for the next 20 years or so (when the children, including my dad, Theo, were now adult and emigrated to different parts of the world).
My late father, Theo Garb, born July 10, 1929, grew up in Dublin an Orthodox Jew, amid the threat and, ultimately, the horrors of a world war. Rev. Wolf Garb, as the chief cantor of Dublin, along with the chief rabbi of Eire, Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog (Isaac Herzog), worked tirelessly during the 1930s and 40s, attempting to help save European Jewry from its eventual fate. While the adults labored, they shielded their children from the war as best they could, which allowed my father a childhood. During this time, Theo, a free spirit, lived an adventurous and “romantic” life.
In his later years, dad would visit Irish-interest clubs, libraries, and community centers, on Long Island, sharing the stories of his youth, in his talks entitled “Growing Up Jewish in Ireland.” Dad was so proud of both his Irish and Jewish heritage (On St. Patrick’s Day, each year, he couldn’t wait to wear his kelly-green tie adorned with a shamrock and a Star of David!) and loved nothing more than to share his life’s adventures with others.
In the year 2000, we embarked on writing his memoirs together. It was delightful to hear, in vivid detail, about his childhood. Listening to him reminisce, a glint in his eyes, excitement in his voice, I experienced his joy and "lived" his adventures with him. And I was happy for him, realizing the enchanted life he had lived, growing up Jewish in Ireland.
A few years later, just as we were ready for the editing process, he became ill with dementia and could not continue with our project. Eight years passed, when, he passed. And then, several years more went by before I became fiercely inspired to edit Dad’s memoirs and bring his engaging and meaningful story to light…
Join Theo as he relives his childhood and teen years, when life was simple, tenuous, and hopeful for a better tomorrow. Poignant and humorous, Theo’s memoir includes a love story – his first great love – a romantic tale of interfaith love with an Irish Catholic beauty. He will tug at your heartstrings, make you laugh, cry, and teach you a bit as well, about overcoming adversity, following one’s heart, and living life to the fullest!