Reflections Upon Our Year at The Kennedy School
The following remarks were made at a dinner of graduating Class 26 and a group of Bostonians who hosted the Israelis for various activities during their year at Harvard:
On the first day of our Wexner Israel Fellowship experience we sat in this very room at Harvard as Brian Mandel and Elisha Gechter welcomed us with a huge stack of papers and forms. There was a letter signed by the President of the JCC welcoming us to the Boston Jewish community with a complimentary family membership. Clearly I wasn’t going to use it, my brain was the only thing I was willing to work in the coming months, but it was the first inkling of the endless love we got from this community. A generosity of spirit consistently went beyond words and translated into action; from families who welcomed us into their homes to community institutions who framed issues, to people who dialogued with us through the year — we have been blessed with the chance to learn and feel the richness of Jewish life and community in all its beauty and complexity. We in Israel have much to learn from you and we hope that we also have a lot to offer.
There are challenges ahead for the Jewish People, wherever fate may have brought us — to Israel, to North America or even Argentina. How do we make progress towards a better collective future? Is Israel THE center of Jewish life or just another (albeit important) center of Jewish life? In what ways is Israel accountable? Over this past year, we have had the opportunity to reflect on these questions through open, honest and often difficult discussions with communal leaders, as well as concerned members of the Jewish community. Through these discussions we have expanded our paradigms and better understood the variety of perspectives held by the North American Jewish community. We made new friends, and gained an appreciation for those we didn’t understand or agree with. But most of all we understood that this relationship, though complex, is extraordinarily powerful and well worth struggling for.
So tonight we thank you, host families, new friends, community leaders and Wexner staff, for facilitating this experience that opened doors for lifelong engagement with all of you as individuals and as a community. This community will forever hold a special place in our minds, hearts and souls. We hope to have the opportunity to reciprocate your love and hospitality in your second home when you come visit us. Toda and lehitraot in Israel!
Ruthie Saragosti is a Class 26 Wexner Israel Fellowship alum (since last week’s graduation). She currently serves as VP International Development and Strategic Planning for Yedidim in Israel. Prior to making aliya in 2002, Ruthie was the Executive Director of the Bronfman Israel Experience Center in Montreal and served as the Director of Birthright Israel, the March of the Living, the Jewish Camp Council and the Bnai Brith Youth Organization. The mother of 3 small children, Yehonatan, Amichai and Noa, Ruthie lives with her husband Tzachi in Tzur Hadassah. She can be reached at email@example.com.