This year, the Summer Institute with the 28th Wexner Israel Fellowship (WIF) cohort was held in Kennebunkport, Maine.  I was among the eight Fellows who were accompanied by WIF Alum Maria Ben Assa (Class 27) and Foundation staff members Or Mars, Elisha Gechter and Aliza Storchan.  This three-day institute, the first one for us current Israel Fellows about to begin our year at Harvard, was about transforming the group into a team and about delving into leadership lessons.  We grappled with a case consultation, enjoyed a forest hike, engaged with a session on peer feedback and gained a better understanding of the North American Jewish community and the challenges that young Jews face on American campuses.

The location for the Institute was perfect a remote and isolated house on the end of a dirt road in Maine, surrounded by swamps that were inhabited by an army of mosquitoes only waiting for a Fellow brave enough to go out for a morning walk or run. I took it upon myself to alleviate the pain of these bug bites by baking fresh focaccia each morning for the group.  My only rival was Chef Bill, who came to give us a cooking lesson and was challenged to prepare a three-course kosher vegetarian, vegan-friendly dinner.

During the institute we had the privilege and pleasure of meeting three inspiring courageous Jewish women, each with a unique experience in successfully mobilizing change through their leadership: Julie Burros (Chief of Arts and Culture for the City of Boston), who is transforming the local art scene with the ambitious ‘Boston Creates’ program; Dr. Rachel Fish (Associate Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis), who is staying true to Jewish and academic values while directing a nationwide influential academic program about Israel; and Rabbi Rachel Isaacs (WGF Alum, Class 19), Rabbi at Colby College and Beth Israel of Waterville, ME), who is contributing enormously to the journey and Jewish identity of her small congregation and local society.

All of these activities allowed us together, as a group, to deepen our understanding of ourselves and each other, our leadership traits, our strengths and our weaknesses.  We left the institute full of motivation for our future Wexner activities and for the challenges of the academic year!

Eyal Jacobson, WIF Fellow (Class 28), serves as Deputy Director of Medical Affairs at the Ministry of Health and works as a family physician.  In the Ministry of Health, Eyal is actively engaged in policy-making and regulation of the Israeli healthcare system — with special interests in development of medical professions, end-of-life care and advance care planning, emergency department operations and management and healthcare services to uninsured special populations.  Eyal graduated from the MD, PhD program at the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology Faculty of Medicine. Eyal can be reached at