DJC Member Spotlight: Tanya Lee

Last month, we joined forces with Tanya Lee, a DJC member who runs a very special and unique book club for girls. A Room of Your Own Book Club gives girls ages 13-18 from at-risk communities the chance to explore and embrace a love of literature.

The last book pick was a young adult novel called “Paper Hearts” by Meg Wiviott, which tells the true story of teenage girls, Fania and Zlatka, in 1944 Auschwitz. The book club gathered to discuss the novel, along with the author, and Rabbi Miriam. There was also a very special guest who spoke to the girls, Sandy Fainer, the daughter of Holocaust survivor Fania, who was the inspiration for the story. Together we engaged in a meaningful and powerful conversation. It was a very special day and we were honoured to be a part of it!

After the book club gathering, we sat down with Tanya to ask her some questions about the important work she does. Thank you, Tanya, for sharing your story with us and for all that you do for our community!

What is your connection to the DJC?

I have been a member of the DJC for over 7 years now. I came to the DJC after meeting Rabbi Miriam.

Does Judaism play a role in the work you do? How?

We are all endowed with the Divine Spark of Adonai. My goal is to coach teen girls to recognize their greatness no matter what walk of life they come from or their life circumstances. I do this by choosing books that have strong female protagonists from different backgrounds. Girls of all different backgrounds need to see themselves represented in novels. The goals of A Room Of Your Own book club are to celebrate one another, to be inclusive and to recognize each others greatness and Divine Spark.

Why did you choose the book Paper Hearts for your book club?

I chose Paper Hearts because it meant a lot to me to bring my Jewish faith into the book club. In addition, I wanted to discuss a true story of strong Jewish women and how they survived one of the most horrific times in history. 

Why was it important for you to have Rabbi Miriam involved with your event?

Rabbi Miriam is my inspiration and my mentor. She is filled with courage and love and it radiates through her everyday no matter the circumstance. It was important for me to have her involved in the book club so young girls can feel her love, her presence and be inspired by her as much as I am!

What have the highlights been for you since starting the book club? How has it impacted you?

The highlights of the book club are when I see the young women having their one and one time with the authors. I just love that. I was blown away when the young women wrote testimonials of how loved they feel at the book club. It brought me to tears.

A Room Of Your Own book club has impacted me in numerous ways.  The most important being that this book club has shown be that we need to honour and celebrate young women more of all diverse backgrounds and different socioeconomic backgrounds as well. Young women are not celebrated nearly enough in society, especially young women of colour. We as a society need to change that. 


Do you know a DJC member who’s making an impact or who has an interesting story to share? We’d love to know about them (or yourself!). Email us at news@djctoronto.com.