Congressman John Lewis with WIF Class 29.

In the week between our last final exam and graduation, our Wexner Israel Fellows cohort traveled to Washington, DC for our final Institute of the year. We aimed to understand the American political system and administration better, to be exposed to the American-Israeli everyday mechanisms and to deepen our connections to the Jewish communities and their leaders.

This week reflected our entire year at Harvard in many aspects.

First, every moment of this week was an incredible learning experience — we heard first hand from the most exciting and influential people about how and what is going on in Washington. We had a significant and intriguing meeting with Congressman John Lewis and heard about his fight for civil rights and his ongoing commitment to social justice. We heard Congresswoman Joyce Beatty talking about being a woman of color in the Congress and the values she is committed to standing up for. We had tea with congressman Mark Santorum and spoke about his commitment to the American political system, the system’s failures and his leadership failures. We met Rabbi Jonah Pesner and heard how the Jewish community had a rich history of contributing to Tikkun Olam. Every day was packed with unusual encounters, some were not even planned, such as meeting a group of one hundred Hadassah women at the Congress cafeteria who described their lobbying efforts to us. All the meetings helped us shape a picture, full of details and colors, of the hectic cosmos called Washington.

Second, this week was the fruit of our collective wishes, expectations and efforts. Each fellow pursued what he or she thought was the most exciting experience for the whole group, and made it happen, sometimes at the very last minute. We all got to present, to search and to lead. This joint effort combined into a diverse itinerary that we couldn’t even dream of in advance.

Third, we felt part of a greater community. We met and had intimate conversations with the Wexner Heritage Alumni, some of them commuting more than four hours to spend an eye-opening evening focused on what it means to be an American Jew. We met AIPAC representatives who spoke about their efforts to help Israel. We reached the Israeli Ambassador for an in-depth conversation regarding the challenges we are facing and the strong unreplaceable alliance between the US and Israel.

Last, but not least — we enjoyed our own company. This year has been full of challenges, activities and first-time experiences, we walked this year together, supporting each other every step of the way. We had fierce debates and arguments on almost every subject, we shouted, we were angry and frustrated, but we listened and managed to always end these interactions with stronger bonds and an even more loving approach to each other. The eight of us, with the incredible Elisha and Or, continued this during our week in DC, too. There wasn’t one moment of silence in the house, car, meeting or dinner…. And we enjoyed every word.

It was such a pleasure to end the most extraordinary year together in this way.




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Wexner Israel Fellows Goni Laufer Duchin and Baruch (Bobi) Marciano Gilburd are in Class 29.