Alumni Spotlight - Galya Sarner

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Gayla Sarner

Gayla SarnerGalya Sarner is the director of the Israeli–Canadian Project of the UJA and The Schwartz/Reisman Centre. She’s a married mother of three who lives in Toronto and Israel. Born and raised in Jerusalem, she attended Hebrew University from 1982 to 1985 and from 2002 to 2004.

What was your most memorable experience at Hebrew University?
I have vivid, positive memories of interacting with students from different backgrounds as well as stimulating lectures. I remember attending classes dealing with special needs children. This experience was a real eye opener. Of course, I also remember the physical beauty of the campus – especially the breathtaking view of Mount Scopus and the surrounding area.

How did your time there make an impact on your development, professionally and personally?
I was inspired by my professors’ leadership, their commitment to the subjects they taught and their dedication to their students. My professors encouraged me to open my mind and expand my horizons. One professor in particular, Michal Govrin, taught theatre. I use her methods in the Mifgash Theatre, a theatre group I helped found. It is the only Hebrew-speaking theatre in Toronto. Its activities help bring Israeli culture and language to the broader Jewish community here. Overall, my experience at Hebrew University gave me a great basis for approaching life after I graduated — as a wife, mother, professional and a human being.

How did you get started in your current career?
After doing some research and writing related to the Israeli community, I was offered a position at the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. My work was devoted to further integrating the growing number of Israeli-Canadians into the larger Jewish community here. I wanted to do as much as I could to strengthen the ties between Toronto’s Jewish community and Israel.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
It has been rewarding to see how, through my work, Israeli Canadians have become more involved in the community here and make contributions in many fields. My greatest satisfaction is seeing how I have helped inspire and motivate people, and how the projects I helped initiate have fostered a better sense of community among local Israeli-Canadians. People have been inspired to get more involved.

Where do you want to be in 10 years?
Ten years from now, I hope to be continuing in this work, to be healthy, happy, inspired, tackling new challenges and seeing the Israeli-Canadian community evolving and growing closer to the existing, overall Jewish community. I also hope to see similar Israeli expatriate communities in other countries further develop and connect with the larger Jewish communities.

What are a few of your favorite things, in terms of movies, food, restaurants, vacation destinations, etc.?
I love spending quality time with my family. I am most passionate about food of all varieties. Cooking together with my family, biking with Robert, my beloved husband, going on long walks in different neighbourhoods, and discovering new places all over the world. I enjoy reading books and going to the theatre. Two of my favourite authors are Robin Sharma and Amos Oz. His book, “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” is excellent. I just love to enjoy and appreciate life.

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