◊ Cynthia Gasner, who died in Toronto on November 9, 2022, touched the lives of many. This profile of her appeared in The Canadian Jewish News in 1986 after she was honoured as one of nine “Women of Valour” by State of Israel Bonds, Women’s Division.
From the Canadian Jewish News, 1986
An admitted “super volunteer,” public relations consultant, freelance journalist and community worker, Cynthia Gasner’s personal motto is “I like to get things done.”
After returning to Ryerson University in 1969 to attain accreditation in public relations, she’s run a successful PR company and lent her media savvy to a variety of Jewish organizations, hospitals and charities.
Gasner says she is not a workaholic but her involvements and accomplishments suggest otherwise. Apart from having been active in virtually every Jewish organization in Toronto over the past three decades, she has been an educational counselor at the Don Jail, a volunteer at the Ontario Mental Hospital, host of a Jewish talk show on cable TV, involved with the Consumer Affairs Committee of the Retail Council of Canada, and a district chairman of UJA, all while raising four children, Myra, Brenda, Robert and John. She’s also [in 1986] a grandmother of two.
These days she focuses on her role as public relations director for the Kashrut Council, Orthodox Division, of Canadian Jewish Congress, helping to untangle the sometimes confusing information surrounding the kashrut of products and status of new foodstuffs entering the province.
She also serves as vice-president of the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care and chair of its Day Care Advisory Committee, including day care for sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, she has written many freelance articles for The Canadian Jewish News over the past 15 years, and updated the newspaper’s library and cataloguing system.
“It’s been difficult to combine everything, the career and fulfilling oneself,” Gasner admits. “My problem is that I love so many things. The challenge is I never know what tomorrow will bring.”
One of her richest volunteer experiences, she said, was her three years of working with inmates at the Don Jail, helping prisoners further their education — “a frustrating but rewarding experience.”
She’s always good at working with elderly people, she acknowledged. “I probably got it from my grandmother. She couldn’t read but she was one of the wisest people I ever knew.”
The former Cynthia Goldie Kleinert was born 54 years ago in Toronto and attended Central High School. She studied accounting and worked briefly as a controller for the Jewish Camp Council. She married Leon Gasner, an engineer, in 1952.
Joining the National Council of Jewish Women, Gasner became an executive officer and a vice-president of NCJW’s Toronto section. As her children grew older, she formed the Parents Advisory Council of CHAT, the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto.
In more recent times, she hosted The Chai Show for Rogers Cable and City TV, and completed an honours BA in political science at York University. Her “insatiable thirst for knowledge” also prompted her to spend a summer studying Mideast politics at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.
She credits her parents and her late father-in-law, Myer Gasner, a community leader and former president of Shaarei Shomayim Congregation, with inspiring her seemingly boundless energy and community activism.
“My father (William Kleinert) was a leather manufacturer,” Gasner said, “and he and my father-in-law became the best of friends. Two more unlikely friends, I never knew.”
Gasner likes to “just allow my life to flow,” she said. “I don’t know what doors will open, so I don’t plan ahead.”♦