100 Alumni We Love!

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In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Hebrew University’s founding, CFHU is honouring our exceptional alumni with the launch of our “100 Alumni We Love” campaign. Please check back with us every Wednesday as we honour another one of our great alumni. Each honouree will tell us in his/her own words what impact going to Hebrew U had on them and how it helped shape who they are today.

  • Please note: HU alums featured in our "100 Alumni We Love" campaign are not listed in ranking order. We love all HU'ers equally! smiley face


Day 1 - Daniel WoskDay 2 - Hyla PollakDay 3 - Benjamin BabinsDay 4 - Melissa MuskatDay 5 - David Kendal and Ellen BenskyDay 6 - Lenny Baranke and Ita KleinerDay 7 - Lorne PersikoDay 8 - Tracy WilderDay 9 - Shonnie BenarochDay 10 - Matthew BeattieDay 11 - Samuel Mosonyi •  Day 12 - Matthew BerryDay 13 - Asaf RolnitskyDay 14 - Bronwen ManningDay 15 - Anne-Sophie CardinalDay 16 - Tovah DavisDay 17 - Joanne GoldmanDay 18 - Laurie May Day 19 - Bonny Reichert Day 20 - Lisi TesherDay 21 - Karen EltisDay 22 - Elliott ShiffDay 23 - Margery Hecht-Kugelmass& Stanley KugelmassDay 24 - Galya SarnerDay 25 - David NadlerDay 26 - Jenifer LevDay 27 - Neill May


100 Alumni We Love - Daniel Wosk

Reflections on my time at HU

By Daniel Wosk, Vancouver

I attended Rothberg toward the end of my undergraduate degree. Living in Jerusalem and studying at HU was a profound experience that continues to have a positive impact in my life.  As a student, I enjoyed a range of subjects from Jerusalem Archaeology to Israeli Foreign Policy. Advancing my Hebrew in Ulpan was a particularly rewarding challenge that I benefit from to this day. I’m especially moved by the incredible research, innovation, social impact and leadership that continuously emerge from the university.

For the past five years, I’ve had the privilege to serve on the board of CFHU Vancouver. Since 2016. I’ve enjoyed raising funds for the Einstein Legacy Student Scholarships by simply hosting ice hockey games. I really appreciate the individuals who have adopted this tradition in other cities and all those who have participated. Not only are we sponsoring an increasing number of deserving students to make a difference at HU, but our support network across the country is growing steadily. 

Since my time with HU, I’ve been more connected and involved in my community. With thanks to the amazing work I see happening in and around the university, I do more tikun olam [repairing the world] and volunteer for a variety of causes on a regular basis. I’m also making more conscious choices and investments in business and in life. 

It’s an honour to share my time and resources with a place that makes such valuable contributions to this world and all humanity, while continuing to provide me with great friendships, memories and inspiration. 

  • Daniel Wosk went on the one-year study abroad program at HU’s Rothberg International School in 2007-2008.


100 Alumni We Love - Hyla Pollak

Reflections on my time at HU

By Hyla Pollak, Toronto

The first time I went to Israel, I was 17 years old on Canadian Young Judaea’s Biluim Israel summer program and we did some university tours. My friend, Sindi Hendler was also on that Israel trip and as we toured the school, saw the view from Mt Scopus, and felt the exciting electrified atmosphere at the time, we knew right then and there we'd be coming to HU for a one-year program.

Our staff member on our Biluim Israel trip actually worked at the HU office during the year and she was very instrumental in helping us make our decision. At the time, we had Grade 13 so that gave me a few years to work and save money for my year abroad. I chose York University in Toronto as my school mainly because they would accept all of my HU credits!

So, in September of 1987 I was on a plane headed to my dream year with my friend Sindi on the One Year Program. I knew it would be exciting and fun but I never dreamed how much it would change my life. I had gone to Jewish day schools and already felt like I’d “learned it all” but realized quickly that just wasn’t the case. The first surprise was realizing that, while I had a decent working knowledge of the Hebrew language, I had no idea that there was a day to day “slang” in the conversational Hebrew and the language I was speaking all those years sounded biblical and ancient.

My first shock was asking where the “beit shimush” was and getting laughed at only to find out it was called “shirutim”.  My second surprise was beginning to understand that while I had been learning about historical Israel my entire school life, I really had no knowledge of modern Israel (and also realized that my historical knowledge was a drop in the bucket). So I became a sponge trying to learn everything I could.

Most of all, there were the friends I made who were all there that year because they had a love of Israel. It had never dawned on me that there were people my age from all over the world who had also grown up learning about this country; who also had a dream of studying there. We were unified because of that dream, that passion and that love. To this day I’ve remained friends with a lot of those people and see many of them quite often. We had a reunion a few years ago and after getting over the initial shock of seeing each other after 30 years, we all just sat around and reminisced and laughed. It was like no time had passed.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been back to Israel many, many times since my year at HU and while I love the entire country, I don’t feel quite at home until I step foot into Jerusalem. That was my home for one amazing year, and I still feel like it’s my home now.

  • Hyla is VP Talent Management at Newtopia Inc. in Toronto. She went on the one-year study abroad program at HU’s Rothberg International School in 1987-1988.


100 Alumni We Love - Benjamin Babins

Reflections on my time at HU

By Benjamin Babins, Toronto

Throughout my time in high school, I was involved in my local Jewish community, running events through an organization called JYN (Jewish youth network) it was, at the time, a group of about 20 high school students who planned, organized and executed various events for the Jewish community. I worked with them throughout my 4 years of high school, eventually becoming president of the student run organization. At the end of my time there, I was given a young leadership award which came with a round trip flight to Israel and a grant for any education I did while I was in Israel.

I took that opportunity to not just go for a short trip, but to do a full year of exchange. Having gone to Queen’s for Political Science, my priority was to get the best education in International and Israeli politics as I could. Combining that with the unbreakable connection that I, like many Jews have, with Jerusalem, led me to study at Hebrew U.

The thing that impacted me most from studying at Hebrew U was the professors. Having professors that worked in their respective fields for their whole careers, and then came to give a life’s worth of knowledge to the students who came to study is an experience unlike any other university experience I have had.

Learning from professors like Dr. Medzini and his wealth of knowledge and first hand experience in Israeli politics inspired me to make Israel, her history and her conflicts one of the focal points of my degrees back home. I have used what I learned from his classes at every opportunity I could throughout my Degree. That knowledge gave me a strong foundation and expertise on Israeli politics that few others have. Because of his classes I got involved in International and Israeli politics when I returned to Queen’s and it became a big part of my life on campus.

Learning Archaeology from Prof. Marva Balouka, although not my field of study, was enlightening and just simply so enjoyable. We got to walk through Jerusalem, a city of archaeology and immense history with someone who knew what was underneath every stone. When I had friends or family come visit me in Israel, I would take them on those same tours, step for step and do my best to retell the stories of Jerusalem’s history as she did, trying my best to inspire them the way that she inspired me.

The specialized knowledge and personal first hand experience that all the professors at Hebrew U have gives them an intimate relationship with the subject matter. Those courses weren’t just studies or published papers to the professors we had, they were the culmination of a careers work and the passion and energy and LIFE with which they taught gives you a different relationship with the material than any other classroom.

  • Ben is a Recruitment Coordinator at EY (Ernst & Yong) in Toronto. He went on the one-year study abroad program at HU's Rothberg International School in 2012-2013


100 Alumni We Love - Melissa Muskat

Reflections on my time at HU

By Melissa Muskat, Toronto

I was in my last year at CHAT and had never been to Israel. I had already been thinking of two different options for the summer of 1983: 1) go on the Kibbutz summer program with CHAT; or 2) go on Ramah in Israel (I was a Ramahnik). Then, a few of my CHAT friends said that they were thinking of going to Hebrew University for their first year of University. At that point, I knew I wanted to apply to law school, so my undergrad years could be as general as I wanted and I could study anything. I researched Hebrew U and thought that the curriculum for the one- year program was so varied and interesting and I thought “what better way to see Israel than to live there for the year”. So, I spent the summer in Ulpan and started the one-year program in the Fall.

Studying at Hebrew U, created my connection to Israel and fostered my love for the country and the people. I had always had a connection to the Jewish Community but Israel was something that I had only “learned about”. The courses offered at Hebrew University allowed me to immerse myself in Israeli literature, geography and history and, of course, being there let me experience Israeli life.  My classmates were both Israelis (as I took some regular courses) and international students. My residence mates were Jews and Arabs. I returned to Canada and focused my communal volunteer work on charities that helped those in Israel. I attended community events in support of Israel. I came back with a better understanding of how Jews and Arabs lived side by side (keep in mind this was well before the first Intifada). I matured as a person and became a much more independent person. It truly was an experience of a lifetime!

  • Melissa Muskat is a Partner in Minden Gross LLP’s Property Taxation and Assessment Law Group in Toronto.


100 Alumni We Love - David Kendal and Ellen Bensky

Reflections on my time ay HU

By David Kendal, Toronto

I attended Hebrew U on the one-year program in 1983/84. How I got there was a bit of a journey. Since the time I was 16 and spent my first summer in Israel I knew I wanted to go back for an extended stay. After my first year at York university (1982) I decided that the time to go was then. Unfortunately, my younger brother Darren was killed in an auto accident week’s before my departure.

Under the circumstance I decided to postpone my departure for another year.  This turned out to be a decision that would effect the rest of my life. Spending the year at Hebrew U, learning, studying and most importantly living life became one of the most important and influential times in my life.

But by going the following year it gave me the opportunity to meet my future partner Ellen Bensky from the US. We got married a few years after leaving Hebrew U and have been married now for over 31 years, and have three wonderful children.

I tell my kids the story from time to time of how life can be a tricky path to follow sometimes. How a horrible event in ones life can sometimes open the door and pave the path to riches you never thought were possible.

Since returning to Toronto, I have been involved with The Canadian Friends Alumni off on from the beginning. Along with a few others I helped establish the original March Madness fundraiser, along with Co chairing the Madness events with my long time friend and HU roommate Lorne Persiko. I’m proud of being an Alumni to one of the greatest learning establishments in the world. Thank you Hebrew U!

  • David is a Yoga Instructor at Yoga Corp.ca and Ellen is a Principal at Turner Fleischer Architects Inc. in Toronto.


100 Alumni We Love - Lenny Baranek and Ita Kleiner

Reflections on our time at HU

By Lenny Baranek & Ita Kleiner - Toronto

I knew a few people who had done the One Year Program at Rothberg in prior years and each one came back really happy, more independent, and with a strong connection to Israel.  It seemed like an ideal match for me and that is exactly what it turned out to be. I went to Rothberg for the year in 1983-84.

I spent the year in the Reznick residences and lived in and enjoyed the great city of Jerusalem (including playing basketball in the hills of Mt Scopus while overlooking the Old City). I studied some courses that deepened my understanding of subjects that I had been (and continue to be) interested in - Middle East Politics, Jewish History, Hebrew and Yiddish.

I was very fortunate to have spent a very formative year of my life at Hebrew U. It allowed me to understand Israel in a way that it is impossible without having physically been there.  I also met and made some lifelong friends (including, and especially, my wife, Ita)!

  • Lenny is a Partner in the Commercial Real Estate Department of Minden Gross LLP and a member of the firm’s Executive Committee.

I spent one semester at Hebrew U in January - June 1984. I was looking for a way to spend significant time in Israel - to have both a meaningful and fun experience. Hebrew U and its gorgeous campus gave me the ideal opportunity. I was able to further explore and love Jerusalem and Israel. Every weekend was spent discovering it all. During the week- courses, taught by professors who left a huge impact on me, were stimulating and awe inspiring.

The people and friendships I made are still part of my life-especially since I met my husband there - Lenny Baranek. So I can thank Hebrew U for the best gift- a very happy life with Lenny in Toronto.

  • Ita spent many years as a Search Consultant at a Toronto based IT/Executive Search Placement Firm.

Mazal Tov to Hebrew University on its 100 years!!


100 Alumni We Love - Lorne Persiko

Reflections on my time at Hebrew U

By Lorne Persiko - Toronto

I went to Hebrew U on the One Year Program in my second year at University of Toronto in 1983-84 and loved my experiences there. It really shaped who I would become in the future. I made lifelong friendships and developed a great love for Israel. I was so taken with Hebrew U that upon my return to Toronto, I have been volunteering in one capacity or another for the last 35 years! I am co-chair of the annual Alumni Online Madness Sports Tournaments fundraising campaign and I am a member of CFHU’s National Board.

My family and I wanted to provide other Canadian students with the life changing opportunity that I had, so we a created a scholarship fund in memory of our parents to help send deserving Canadian students to study at Hebrew U.  To date, I am proud to say that we have awarded over 45 scholarships from the Bernard & Elinore Persiko Merit Scholarship Fund. Mazel Tov to Hebrew U on your 100th anniversary.

  • Lorne is a Managing Partner at Westhaven Capital in Toronto.


100 Alumni We Love - Tracy Wilder

Reflections on my time at HU

By Tracy Wilder, Toronto

When I was 16 years old, I went on seminar with Camp Ramah to Israel. As part of our trip we were given a tour of the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University. And I remember distinctly, walking around the campus in total awe. I knew right then that I would come back to attend Hebrew U. It had a magnetic pull for me and was by far my favourite year of university.

I decided to spend my first year of university at Hebrew U, not my second or third. It was a year full of discovery for me. It was about growing up and becoming independent. I was able to indulge in my love of travel and took great advantage of time off. I went to Kenya, Turkey, Greece, Scotland, England, France and Poland during the school breaks.

I made lifetime friendships and my love for Israel and Jerusalem was cemented, and has only grown stronger since. I remember clearly, after travelling around Israel that year being amazed by the feeling that anywhere I was in Israel, I was standing on top of so much world and Jewish history. I also remember distinctly feeling like it was very freeing to feel like I wasn’t a minority. I never had that growing up in Waterloo, so it was a life changing time for me.

  • Tracy spent many years as a strategic advisor in the recruitment industry in Toronto. She attended the one-year study abroad program at HU’s Rothberg International School from 1987-1988.


Shonnie Benaroch

Reflections on my Time at HU!

By Shonnie Benaroch, Montreal

I have always felt a very special connection to Israel. For me, it’s about more than just growing up in a Zionist home and learning about Jewish and Israeli history in school. It’s about more than the beautiful beaches, delicious food and incredible atmosphere.

I remember crying the very first time I landed at Ben Gurion airport 10 years ago and not understanding why. As soon as we touched down, a wave of inexplicable emotions washed over me and it’s those same feelings that led me to study at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem 6 years later in 2014. Feelings I now understand are as simple as feeling at home.

When deciding where to study abroad, my friends and I were overwhelmed with options of Universities all around the world, but for me, the choice was easy. Hebrew U is not only located in my favourite country in the world, it is also a world-class institution that has produced countless political, scientific, economic, medical and business leaders.

Studying Business Administration at HUJI and living in Jerusalem gave me the opportunity to learn from industry experts, explore so much of Israel, celebrate Purim the right way, eat the best falafel in the world, improve my Hebrew, dance in the streets for Yom Ha’atzmaut, make lifelong friendships and create lasting memories 5,500 miles away from my house, while still feeling perfectly at home. It’s an experience I will cherish forever.

  • Shonnie is an Alumni Relations Officer, Corporate Engagement Programs at McGill University in Montreal. She went to Hebrew U in 2014 for one semester, studying at the Business Administration School.


CFHU 100 Alumni We Love - Matthew Beattie

Reflections on my time at HU

By Matthew Beattie, Toronto

I received the Persiko Family’s merit student scholarship from CFHU in 2013 and went off to Israel that summer to attend the Rothberg International school and take a summer course called the History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

By far, the most memorable experience that I had during my time studying at Hebrew U was on the night of Tisha B’Av. Several students that I was studying with invited me to attend a service at the Great Synagogue and then come into the Old City with them to experience the evening. I was taken onto the roof of a Yeshiva in the Old City where we could look out over the Western Wall Plaza where thousands of people had gathered to commemorate the day. Some of those studying at the Yeshiva were from Toronto and they explained the history and meaning of this date in the Jewish calendar and all that the people gathered were remembering.

As a person of the Christian faith, I felt privileged to experience this evening with my Jewish friends and be given a view into the history and suffering of their people.  It was also Ramadan at this time and so the Temple Mount, just beyond the Wall was absolutely packed with those celebrating. It was an incredibly moving experience for me, to witness these two people groups whose conflict I was studying, both gathered in such large numbers, with only the Wall between them. This is the memory that stands out most vividly when I recall my time studying at Hebrew U.

Spending the summer studying at Hebrew University was the highlight of my undergraduate education. It was an educational experience that greatly expanded my worldview and I consider it to be some of the most valuable education I have ever received. I also had the opportunity while there to meet and connect with a number of Osgoode Law Students who were studying at Hebrew U. Several of these individuals later became mentors to me and we still often speak of our time spent together in Israel.

  • Matthew is currently in his final year of a four-year JD/MBA degree at Osgoode Hall Law School and the Schulich School of Business. Upon graduating in the Spring of 2018 he returned to BMO Capital Markets as an Investment Banking Associate, where he spent the previous summer.


100 Alumni We Love - Day 11 - Samuel Mosonyi

Reflections of my time at HU

By: Samuel Mosonyi – Toronto

I went to the Rothberg International School in 2014 for the Coexistence in the Middle East summer field course after graduating from the University of Guelph.

I received a scholarship from the Persiko Family's student scholarship fund at CFHU, which was greatly appreciated.

I enjoyed lasting friendships and learning outside of the classroom during my first trip to Israel. After the course, I studied for a master's degree in criminology at the University of Cambridge as a Gates Scholar and then completed law school at the University of Toronto.


  • Samuel is currently a Judicial Law Clerk at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, where he assists judges with legal research and editing decisions.


100 Alumni We Love - Matthew Berry

Reflections on my time at HU

By Matthew Berry, Toronto

In 2008, I was an International Relations student studying in Paris and I wanted to improve my understanding of the history and politics of the Middle East. What better place to study than Hebrew U’s Rothberg International School?

My time at Hebrew U was both a spiritual and intellectual adventure. It connected me in ways to my past, my culture, and my family that I hadn't expected. It gave me an appreciation for the region's incredible people, landscapes, and food. It gave me insights into the headlines and a more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for a country that is more often talked about than truly understood.


  • Matthew is the Director of Partnership Development - Canadian Mountain Network in Calgary Alberta.


100 Alumni We Love - Asaf Rolnitsky

Reflections on my time at HU

By Dr. Asaph Rolnitsky, Toronto

I attended the faculty of medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1992-1999.

I chose the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s medical school because I thought it was the best medical school and that I would love the city of Jerusalem.

Not only did I study what I loved, but the clinical, academic, and campus experiences matured me, made me a thinker, doubter, explorer, researcher, and a collaborator with colleagues and friends to this day. I remember each and every teacher I had and feel gratitude to each of them.


  • Asaph is currently a Staff Neonatologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.


100 Alumni We Love - Day 14 - Bronwen Manning

Reflections on my time at HU

By Bronwen Manning, Toronto

While I was an undergraduate studying Archaeology at the University of Cape Town, a Professor encouraged me to continue my studies abroad. I went to HUJI in 2010 and started in the One Year Program. Like most people, the one-year plan extended into a Masters Degree, and then the opportunity to do a PhD in Archaeology in 2018.

I found HUJI to be unlike any other University. The place where it rests and the people who walk its halls imbue a special life into its structure. The life lessons I acquired were not learned in the classroom, but rather the conversations with Professors and Students in the in between hours.

The sentiments expressed over and over again, where ones yearning for peace, striving for truth, and acting to make the world a better place. I was able to become apart of that story thanks to the financial support from the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University through the Persiko Family Scholarship Fund. There is no finer gift than providing someone with the chance of an education.


  • Bronwen is currently a Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Sportball Canada in Toronto.


100 Alumni We Love - Anne-Sophie Cardinal

Reflections on my time at Hebrew U

By Anne-Sophie Cardinal, Montreal

I was living in Israel for a few years and working with French speaking African asylum seekers. I had worked in various development and humanitarian projects in Africa, Central America and South-East Asia. When the Glocal Community Development Studies Master’s was offered at the Hebrew University, I saw this as an opportunity to extend and perfect my understanding of human development and community building issues.  I completed the program at Rothberg between 2011 and 2013, during which I did my practical internship with the international NGO CARE in Cotonou, Benin, working on the needs assessment of women in 3 communities affected by recurring floods in Northern Benin.

Being at HU provided me with the major theories, critical thinking and practical skills behind community development and international aid. It helped me "see the big picture" and trends, and better understand in which direction I would go next. It also allowed me to meet people from diverse backgrounds and fields of work and from all over the world, and learn from them as well.

Lastly, studying at the Glocal progam confirmed that I should continue in the field of community work, and upon my return to Montreal in Canada, I embarked on the journey of a PhD-PsyD program in Community Psychology & Clinical Psychology, focusing on mental health promotion, prevention programs for at-risk / vulnerable groups, and tackling  mental health issues from a multi-factorial perspective (rather than just the individual).


  • Anne-Sophie is currently a Doctoral Student in Community Psychology (PhD-PsyD), at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) University.


100 Alumni We Love - Day 16 - Tovah Davis

Reflections on my time at HU

By Tovah Davis, Israel

After graduating from a BA in Religious Studies at York University in Toronto, I started working at a large nonprofit. It was my first job post degree and I discovered the world of good deeds, giving and volunteering. From my work experience, I got a glimpse into the world of nonprofit management and decided to pursue a master’s degree in the subject.

I sealed my fate when I sat in Moshik Galanty’s office at CFHU and ticked off the option of applying for a 2-year master’s degree in Community Leadership & Philanthropy Studies (CLPS 2009-2011).

The program has since evolved into a 13 months’ program called Non Profit Management and Leadership studies (NML). Just as it was a wonderful program while I studied, it continues to be an outstanding program bringing together students from all over the world whose passion is to “do good.”

The professors are not only knowledgeable, but kind and caring and were open to discussions, jokes and small celebrations during classes. I kept in touch with the administrative staff and some of my former peers. One of them I still call my best friend 10 years later!

I started working at a nonprofit in Israel shortly after completing my degree and then I went onto to working in the field of marketing.

Today I have come full circle as I am now employed by the Hebrew University as a project manager in the International Marketing Department. I am grateful for all that I was given in my two years as a student and I am happy that I have the opportunity to give back!


100 Alumni We Love - Joanne Goldman

Reflections on my time at HU

By Joanne Goldman, Toronto

Prior to my year abroad (1989-90) at The Rothberg International School at HU, I had various impactful Israel experiences, including living in Jerusalem for two years with my family when I was 13 years old and participating in Canadian Young Judea Biluim Israel in summer of 1987. During those times I had numerous interactions with family friends and CYJ staff who were studying at HU and having such memorable experiences.  In addition, my sister spent a year at HU in 1987-88. When my university years came around, I knew I wanted to have my own learning, travelling, and social experiences that spending a year at HU at that stage of life provides.

Studying at Hebrew University impacted my life in multiple ways. The experience of living independently, studying in Jerusalem and travelling the country with close friends for a whole year provided incredible experiences and memories that have stayed with me over all these years.  I vividly remember the first day arriving together with my good friend Jenifer Lev at Givat Ram campus a few days later than the Canadian group because I was working as Solelim staff. My memories of the year are extensive but include taking courses I would never have the option to take in my other university programs, taking trips south to the Sinai and north to Tiberias and surrounding areas, shopping at machane yehudah and cooking up dinners with friends, and lining up in the pay phone room to make a collect call home! 

I continue to feel a special connection to the Mt. Scopus campus, given the many memories of learning in the buildings, walking along the beautiful pathways, living in the dorms with my roommate and friends, and eating together in our favourite cafeterias. The celebration of our twin sons and their cousins’ bnei mitzvah at the Mt. Scopus campus overlooking the city of Jerusalem in 2013 was particularly meaningful to me because of this physical connection.

I now love reading about the research that is done at HU. Being a healthcare researcher and always being keen to read about healthcare education and services research happening in the world, I feel a special connection when learning about the incredible work being done there. I am grateful for my one year of studying at HU and all the learning opportunities I have had through Canadian Friends of Hebrew University since that time.


  • Joanne is currently a scientist at the Centre for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety at the University of Toronto.


100 Alumni We Love - Day 18 - Laurie May

Reflections on my time at HU

By Laurie May, Toronto

My brother had attended Hebrew U and he loved it, so me and one of my closet friends Lisi Tesher (also a 100 alumni nominee) signed up to go together on the one-year study abroad program in 1987-88. I still think of it as one of the best year’s of my life!
Being on the one-year program was an incredible experience, from living in Jerusalem, to the interesting classes, lifelong friendships made and to amazing travel opportunities. One of the most interesting trip was the cultural legacy trip that took us to Poland Hungary and Austria. My Hebrew U experience led to other great things, from leading a summer program in Israel for students the following summer to being involved with the Israel Cancer Research Fund.

Overall it solidified a lifelong love and commitment to Israel and I am grateful that I had this amazing opportunity.


  • Laurie is currently the Co-Founder & Co-President of Elevation Pictures, a Canadian distribution company.


100 Alumni We Love - Bonnie Reichert

Reflections on my time at Hebrew U

By Bonny Reichert, Toronto

I had a friend from BBYO who had done the year study abroad program at Hebrew U and couldn't stop talking about what a fantastic time she had. Back then it wasn't so common for people to do a year abroad and I was amazed when my parents gave me the green light to go. So off I went to study at Hebrew U in 1987-88 having no real sense of what was to become.

In addition to the One Year Program I was also allowed to take a film studies and English course in the regular school, which added even more dimension to the experience.

How did going to Hebrew U impact my life? Wow so many ways. I made friendships to last a lifetime, I developed a permanent love and attachment to Israel and, ta da! I met Michael Gelfand, the man who eventually became my husband was also on the one-year program that year too.

I am so honoured to be included in this list and to imagine that I had even a fraction of the impact on the program that it had on me. It was a totally life-altering experience.


  • Bonny is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist. She is also a trained chef, a freelance content creator and a past Globe and Mail columnist.


    100 Alumni We Love - Lisi Tesher

Reflections on my time at HU

By: Lisi Tesher - Toronto

I went on the one-year program at Rothberg in 1987-88 and it was one of the best years of my life! I remember convincing my friend at the time to go with me, filling out her application and packing her bags! We were roomies for the year and are still friends to this day.

When we arrived for Ulpan in July, with all of the other Canadians, we were put in dorms at Givat Ram. Simply due to location, we became most friendly with all the other Canadians. We also became quite close with the group of Australians who arrived for half the year. Though they live far away, I have managed to stay in close contact with two, and have been to see them, and they have come here to visit. So, intense lifelong friendships were definitely made that year.

My penchant for language just grew and grew that year. I spoke Hebrew as often as I could, with whomever would be kind enough and patient enough, and I dare say I am fairly fluent, and I speak Hebrew daily.

We had so many fabulous adventures that year! I spent Sukkot in Eilat learning how to scuba dive, which had a huge impact on my life as I became an avid underwater photographer. Years later, I spent several months living and working on a boat in the Sea of Cortez; and I also lived and worked with Jean-Michel Cousteau in Fiji assisting clientele on an underwater photography course.

During Passover, two friends and I made a reverse exodus and took a bus tour to Egypt! We were the youngest on the bus by about 4 decades! We sailed a faluka down the Nile, rode horses across the desert, and ate nothing but the matzo we had brought with us and rice. For a week!

After finishing the program at Hebrew University, I returned to graduate from McGill University with a BA in Humanistic Studies. Doubtful anyone else has a credit for Archaeology from that program! I then continued my education and received another degree in Applied Photography from Brooks University in California with a minor in business and accounting. The travel bug had bit me hard that year in Israel, so I then worked on cruise ships for several years, and was back in Israel several times with Birthright and Roger Nielson’s Hockey Camp.

I have managed to travel to over 80 countries thus far. I met my husband (while working on a cruise ship!), started a family, and I now live and work in Toronto as an editor. I'm very involved in the Jewish community in Toronto, both through my synagogue, where I take courses and volunteer, and my children’s school, where I am president of the Parents’ Association.


  • Lisi is a writer and editor in Toronto.


100 Alumni We Love - Karen Eltis

Reflections on my time at HU

Written by: Karen Eltis - Montreal

While studying law at McGill, I applied to spend my third year of law school in Israel, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At the time, an official exchange program between the faculties did not exist, but fortunately the Vice-Dean at my home institution allowed me to apply. Rather than study at Rothberg (and since I am fluent in Hebrew) I applied directly to the law school and enrolled in regular courses.

I flew back briefly (albeit very reluctantly, having to tear myself from Jerusalem) in order to complete my law degree (which at the time was four years) but promptly returned to Jerusalem to begin an LLB (in public law and international trade).

Since I was pursuing a joint BCL, LLB, BA (political science), I had taken one course (on Political Extremism) with Prof. Ehud Sprinzak Z”L during my year of exchange, which was truly one of the most illuminating experiences.

My time in Jerusalem without exaggeration was truly and sincerely the most formative time in my life.   During my time at HUJI, I was extremely fortunate to have completed a year-long clerkship at the Supreme Court of Israel in the chambers on the Honorable Chief Justice Aharon Barak (ret.) at a momentous time. It was undoubtedly one of the most (if not the most) formative and profoundly signifcant time for me, one which continues to deeply impact my thinking.

I also worked briefly at the AG’s office (during (now ret. Justice) Rubinstein’s tenure), and practiced at Herzog Fox Ne’eman. Indeed, some of my closest friendships (maintained with colleagues all over the world from London to Paris, Singapore to NY – and of course Jerusalem for the past twenty years) were forged during that time.

Academically, I would highlight the remarkable teachings of Professors Ruth Lapidoth, which left an incredible mark on me, as did Ruth Gavison, Calde Klein, Stephen Goldstein  ZL , and Ehud Sprinzak ZL , Justice Elon ZL, Justice Dorner and Prof Eyal Benvinisti (who I was lucky enough to be taught by again during my graduate studies at Columbia Law School).

Words cannot express how honoured I am to now be visiting at and affiliated with HUJi’s cybersecurity center: https://csrcl.huji.ac.il/people/karen-eltis.

  • Karen is currently a full Professor of Law (professeure titulaire) at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. She studied at HUJI from 1998-1999 (third year of law school on exchange), 2000-2001 obtained LLM (completed in one year).


100 Alumni We Love - Elliot Shiff

Reflection on my time at HU

By Elliot Shiff - Toronto

I applied to spend my third year of University on the One-Year Program in 1983-84.  A couple of my friends had been there the year before and had nothing but good things to say about it.  Fortunately, York University was very cooperative, so everything went through smoothly.  I had been to Israel once before but this would be my first real extended stay. 

I studied a broad range of courses, everything from religious studies to archaeology and literature.  I also took advantage of getting out and traveling the country.  The University had some excellent trips, others I did on my own with friends.  That would have a major impact on my future career choices, as when I returned to Canada to finish off my degree, I decided that I needed to get out and do more beyond my studies.  I volunteered at the York University student newspaper.   The next year, I ran it full-time.  The following year I went to Columbia University and completed my MS in Journalism.

One of the highlights of my 23 years as a journalist, was serving as Middle East Bureau Chief for CTV, which brought me back to Jerusalem, where I was based, with my family, from 1997 to late 1999.  While the country had changed quite dramatically in the intervening years, it still felt like home, thanks to my year at Hebrew U.

I go back almost yearly, as my brother made Aliyah 30 years ago.  I also conduct business with an Israeli company, focusing on real estate investments in North America.  In addition, I volunteer with the Lone Soldier program.  Overall, the One-Year Program had a very positive influence on my life.


  • Elliot is currently a Sales Representative at Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd. in Toronto.


100 Alumni We Love - Margery Hecht-Kugelmass & Stanley Kugelmass


Reflections on my time at HU

By Margery-Hecht Kugelmass & Stanley Kugelmass, Toronto

We came to study on the One Year Abroad program at HU during the academic year 1970-1971 quite independent of one another. I was from the US (New Jersey) and Stan was from Montreal. Both of us had been studying at University and had been considering spending a year abroad. We both grew up in very traditional Jewish homes with strong ties to Israel.

It was a dream for both of us to spend a year in Israel and we couldn’t have imagined how that year would provide us so many defining moments in our lives. The courses we took were so academically sophisticated and taught by world scholars in their chosen fields. We made lasting friendships, people who remain a part of our lives even today.

We travelled in Israel extensively to parts of Israel which are no longer within their borders. We climbed Har Sinai and saw the sunrise and watched the moon rise over the Golan every night.  Meeting one another has shaped so much of our lives and given us a solid foundation both in our love for each other and our love of Israel.

Our year in Israel has shaped our lives. We met and then married. Made our home in Canada and had four children. Our oldest daughter also studied at the Rothberg program thirty years after we did! We have returned to Israel many times since 1971. Every time is magical.

  • Margery is a registered clinical Social Worker who has operated a private practice in midtown Toronto for over thirty years.
  • Stanley is a partner at Blayney McMurty LLP.


100 Alumni We Love - Gayla Sarner


Reflections on my time at HU

By Galya Sarner, Toronto

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.

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.

  • Galya 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.



100 Alumni We Love - David Nadler

Reflections on my time at HU

By: David Nadler, Toronto

I attended the mechina program at Hebrew U in 1984-85 after high school as a gap year before university. My sister had done the same 10 years earlier. I had been to Israel in 1982 after grade 9 as part of a B’nai Akiva summer program. It was a tremendous experience. That summer, the 1982 war in Lebanon was in progress and the staff that was supposed to run our program were called up to the army so we ended up with an eclectic staff consisting of former Montrealers living in Israel and a woman from a moderately religious kibbutz. That experience solidified my desire to spend a year studying in Israel after high school.

The year I spent at Hebrew year was transformative in many ways. Living independently in the Resnick dorms on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem, engaging on a daily basis with Israelis and Jews from all over the world at Hebrew U and travelling the entire country, cemented my already strong ties to Israel. I become fluent in conversational Hebrew, matured tremendously, and was able to learn from so many tremendous faculty, including studying Tanach with the great Nechama Leibowitz.

My wife Tara (who also spent a gap year in Israel) and I, have four children. Israel plays a very central role in our family. Our two children who have graduated high school both spent gap years studying in Israel and we celebrate our youngest daughter’s bat mitzvah in Israel. Much of this is due in a large part to the invaluable impact those gap years had upon our lives.

  • David is currently a Partner at Goodmans LLP, Banking and Finance and Hospitality in Toronto.


100 Alumni We Love - Jenifer Lev

Reflections on my time at Hebrew U

By: Jenifer Lev, Toronto

I always knew I wanted to spend a year abroad studying in Israel. I was focused on a career in Jewish Education and thought it would be a great experience to study at Hebrew U. My program was in Toronto so going to Hebrew U was an amazing opportunity to be at school with my friends who went away to university as well as to make new friends.

I went on the One Year Program abroad at Rothberg from 1990-1991 - The year of the Gulf War. Many students from the U.S. left after first semester as they were not sure what would happen politically and did not want to lose their year. All the Canadians came back after winter break and it went on to be an incredible experience!

Studying at Hebrew U enhanced my LOVE for Israel. It validated my desire and passion to enter the field of Jewish education. I met incredible people, studied with outstanding professors/educators and travelled to amazing places.

  • Jenifer is currently working in Educational Support Services at Netivot HaTorah Day School in Toronto.



100 Alumni We Love - Neill May

Reflections on my time at Hebrew U

By Neill May, Toronto

I went to Rothberg at Hebrew U on the one-year program in 1983/84. It was a great year and it helped me establish a life-long connection with the country. I travel to Israel yearly and have such great memories of my time spent there at HU.

To this day, I maintain strong connections with my friends from that year, not just in Toronto but hosting and visiting friends from LA, SF, Seattle, Dallas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Miami.

  • Neill May is a partner, Co-Chair of the Corporate Securities Group and a member of the Executive Committee at Goodmans LLP in Toronto.

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