By way of introduction, on Tuesday night, May 26, our current class of Wexner Israel Fellows (Class 26) prepared a lovely end-of-the-year thank-you dinner for all those in Boston who had welcomed them so warmly. This was followed the next day by a graduation brunch for the Fellows and their families, as well as key staff and faculty, including President Elka Abrahamson, Vice President Cindy Chazan, Program Manager of the Israel Fellowship Program Elisha Gechter, and Harvard Faculty Advisor Brian Mandell. The final piece of the planned program asked each Fellow to give a final toast and talk briefly about some highlights of the year and end with a declaration of “I Will” or “I am” or “I Commit To”. Here is one of them:
Trying to summarize this year it’s easy to say too much, as there is much to tell.
It’s also easy to not say enough, as some understanding is presently no more than seeds that will hopefully sprout with the struggling with future obstacles.
This year I was given the opportunity to be better prepared for the unknown.
Getting such an opportunity in your late 40s, to disengage from life with all its pressures and commitments, only to learn and reflect - is an unusual opportunity and a profound gift.
I’ve been exposed to the brightest and discoursed with a colorful, remarkable array of people: great achievers from around the world and from the local community.
I learned to be less restrained in saying “yes”; to realize that in doing so I open the door to opportunity.
It is said that if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room. I could have never been in a better place this year.
Harvard challenged me on emotional issues. Decision science, negotiations and leadership learning — all in acknowledgement of our emotional self. This was totally left out of my engineering studies.
The Wexner Foundation provided me with this opportunity and opened the door to the Jewish community in its full glory, generosity and deep questions.
Both Academia and the Foundation engaged us with new relationships that are — and shall — remain a source of strength and support in the years to come.
I am thankful to The Wexner Foundation and Harvard’s Kennedy School for allowing me to embark on this lifelong journey, of learning and support.
I am grateful to The Center for Public Leadership (CPL) for offering endless opportunities to learn and interact. For a superb and energetic staff offering support and encouragement.
Thank you, Brian and Deb, for walking us through this year. For your wisdom, guidance and caring.
Thank you, Elisha, for being everywhere all the time, making sure we don’t stray from the path. For being so involved and committed to our success.
I am thankful to my six amazing peers who couldn’t be more different than myself, who turned our class — by mutual commitment — into great virtue and real friendship.
Last but far from least, I am grateful to my family who made this difficult journey here and struggled with me — and beside me.
Above all I am indebted to my wife who put up with this selfish shift in my focus, allowing me to make the most of this year.
It is said: “No pain, no gain”. This year my gain was also her pain. I am hopeful it shall prove our mutual gain in times to come.
Finally, I commit to say “yes” more readily to the unknown, to gain strength from family and friends and to be true to my inner compass.
I commit to making a difference on a higher level than before, to dare to make our country and this world a better and safer place.
Aaron Fortus holds a B.Sc. in Aeronautical Engineering and an M.S. in Systems Engineering from the Technion. He served in the IDF for 6 years as an analyst and team leader in the Intelligence Corps, followed by a short stint in the energy industry. Over the past 16 years Aaron held various management and operative positions in the Prime Minister’s Office, combining technology with diverse disciplines in complex projects in country and abroad. Aaron resides in Hod Hasharon with his wife Tchiya and their children Inbal, Noga and Adam. Born in the Netherlands in 1966, he immigrated to Israel from the US in 1971, and his childhood was spent in Kfar Saba and Moshav Zofit. He is an avid fan of music, sport and trekking. Aaron can be reached at Aaron4tus@gmail.com .