Gila is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Yesh Tikva. Three years into her personal fertility journey she founded Yesh Tikva with the help of four incredible and dedicated women. She received her BA in psychology from Yeshiva University Stern College for Women and an MA in Applied Behavioral Analysis from Columbia University. Prior to assuming the position of Executive Director of Yesh Tikva, she worked for 8 years as a behavior therapist and parent educator working with children on the Autism Spectrum.
How did you get started with your Jewish community work?
It started out of a personal need. I was a behavior therapist working with children and their families while facing my own fertility journey. I was in search of emotional support and community and at the time was unsuccessful in finding it, so I connected with others and we started our own community, which was the groundwork for the founding of Yesh Tikva.
If you had a year off and an extra million dollars to tackle a big problem facing the Jewish community - what would it be and why?
The big problem that I would and hope to tackle is reproductive health education for teens and young adults. We spend a lot of time in biology class learning about plants and punnet squares but not much attention is focused on our own biology and important information for caring for our own bodies. Most of us are born with reproductive organs that impact our health far beyond procreation. Yet, very little education is given to teens and young adults to better understand the inner workings of our bodies and how to advocate for our health.
Tell us about an epic failure or setback you’ve experienced in your work. What did you learn from that experience?
I am not sure that there has been a single epic failure or setback, but there have been many small setbacks along this journey. In the non-profit sector, your work is always in service of others. It can be hard to let go of what you think is best and make room to listen and hear what others have to contribute. We have experinced disappointments and failures that have led to us iterating from our original vision to what those we are serving truly want and need. Pivoting and learning from our mistakes, has allowed Yesh Tikva to continue to grow.
What person (or people) has had a particularly big influence on your Jewish communal work?
My parents, both of whom dedicate their lives personally and professionally to our local Jewish community have always been the biggest influence on my Jewish communal work. They teach me by example what it means to stand up with and for others in struggle. From a young age, they imparted the Torah values of “V’ahavta L’reacha Kamocha – Love others as you love yourself” and “Eimo Anokhi Bitzar- I am with you in your pain” through their love and devotion to all Jews.
What advice would you give to other young people who want to make more of an impact on the Jewish community?
Our community is blessed to be replete with charitable organizations working to make the Jewish community and the world at large a better place for all of us. There are so many options that one can choose from, that I strongly recommend starting with an organization that speaks to your passions. What I have personally learned is that when you are passionate about the cause, you end up gaining so much more than you are giving. And it doesn’t take a lot of effort to give. We are all blessed with varying talents that can be used in support of others, offering to share your talent can go a long way in helping support those in need.
If you had a MyTzedakah portfolio, what would be very important for you to include in it and why?
There are so many inspiring and wonderful organizations on MyTzedakah! I wish that I had the capacity to give to all of them. But to start I have focused on causes that are close to my heart. These include local organizations in my community, organizations that serve and empower women, and those that ensure a better and safer future for the next generation. From a young age, I was always taught that tzedakah begins at home, and as such supporting local organizations is the first place I give. Secondly, as a proud and vocal woman, it is important to me that other women are given the tools and support they need to achieve empowerment and independence. And lastly, I believe that as a Jew it is my responsibility to aid in making this world a better place, and therefore the third group in my portfolio includes organizations that work to improve this world for the next generation.
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