100 Alumni We Love

Reflections on my time at HU

by Karen Shai, Toronto

I am a proud alumna of the 1992/1993 One-Year Program (OYP) at Hebrew University, which was the most enjoyable, enriching and impactful year of my life. Unlike many other foreign students at Hebrew U, I was already familiar with Israel and Israeli culture.

Karen Shai

Both my parents are Israeli, I speak Hebrew, and I have considerable family there.  Although I already had a love for Israel before my year there, I saw the OYP as a great opportunity to fully immerse myself in Israeli life while completing my undergraduate degree from York University.

I was fortunate to receive considerable scholarship assistance from CFHU to study at Hebrew U and will always be grateful for that. To this day, I feel blessed to have learned about the history of the Jewish people and the Jewish nation in the heart of the very place where those things matter most, and by some of the country’s most renowned and prestigious professors.  The academic experience was unparalleled.

Perhaps above all else, my year in Israel connected me with a group of friends from Toronto who remain some of my dearest friends to this day, almost 20 years later.  With meaningful connections forged through the bond of our shared experiences at Hebrew U, these are friendships (more like a sisterhood, really) that have endured. Despite the passage of time and the addition of husbands, children and other major life events, we still reminisce about Hebrew U every time we get together. That is a remarkable testament to the program.

My love for, and commitment to, the state of Israel was further deepened by my time there and, frankly, I’m still somewhat surprised that I returned to Canada when it was over – it was a close call, to be sure.  While I was there, I found out I was accepted to law school and returned to Canada to give that a shot.  Life unfolded, as it tends to do, and nearly 20 years later, I work as a criminal prosecutor and am thankful for a rewarding career, great husband and two wonderful children, Noa and Nathan.

Just last night, I asked my daughter if she was excited to go to Hebrew U – as she only turned 8 years old a couple of months ago, she wasn’t quite sure how to respond 😉 … but I’ve planted the seed and will continue to water it in the sincere hope that one day, she, too, will become a Hebrew U alumna!

And, yes, Jeff Seidel, I do have a place for Shabbos. Thankfully.

  • Karen is currently a criminal prosecutor in the office of the Ontario Attorney General in Toronto.

Karen Shai