The current class of 43 Wexner Senior Leaders just finished their month at the Harvard Kennedy School. Below, they share program highlights and lessons. To learn more about the WSL Program, please click here

Negotiations with Professor Mandell, by Michal

“We cannot negotiate with people who say what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable” 
– JFK, The Berlin Crisis: Radio and Television Address to the American People (The White House, July 25, 1961)

I guess most of us took a course or two on negotiating, prior to joining WSL, but I believe that after a short encounter with Diego Primadonna and Rio Nacionale, we all realized we had quite a bit more to learn.  Wouldn’t it be great if we mastered the art of letting other people have it our own way?

So we started getting familiar with BATNA’s (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) and ZOPA’s (Zone of Possible Agreement), absorbed the importance of “the first 180” (the first 3 minutes of the negotiation), tried to figure out when to be “first movers”, “fast followers” or “summarizes”, learned the difference between a “soft no” and a “hard no”, and we tried to write our opponent’s victory speech.  And yet, when the Sea Port negotiation came along, although we built, maintained and blocked coalitions, we still found ourselves being more our real selves, taking everything personally, rather than professionally or being able to see negotiating as a game.  We probably proved Professor Mandell’s contention, that “Israel’s Number 1 Export is Active Listening”, to be true…

Giving it another try, later on in the program, during a 30 minute break between meals, we tried to do better as mediators and earned ourselves a “Good Job” from Professor Mandell.

But then, just to make sure we weren’t getting too pleased with ourselves, we were introduced to “12 Angry Men”… Oh, if only we were as persuasive as Jack Lemmon, we might have succeeded in convincing the people in charge of the program to keep us here for another month.


Gratitude for a Shabbat Dinner of Connection, by Muhammed Shameyeh

Dear Amy and Geoffrey*,

I would like to express my deep gratitude to you for inviting me for Shabbat dinner.  I enjoyed very much getting to know you and your marvelous friends.

I was deeply impressed by your open mindedness to others and by your true commitment to the society in Israel as a whole.

As an Arab-Israeli, meeting people like you fills me with optimism and encourages me to continue my efforts to do as much as I can for improving coexistence in our society.

My wife and I will be delighted to invite you to our home in Israel when you come to visit.

*Geoffrey Lewis (WHP Alum, Boston) and his wife Amy are among many Heritage Alumni in the Boston area who regularly host Israel Fellows and Wexner Senior Leaders participating in our programs at Harvard.

Encounter with Harvard Hillel Students, by Ronen Shapira

Twenty of us met with about an equal number of undergraduate students at Harvard Hillel for an evening of getting to know one another and learning about our attitudes toward and expectations around Israel and the North American Jewish Community.

First of all, I would like to say that we were very impressed by the students and the project itself — the work Hillel is doing to help students connect to their Jewish identity, and that they even embrace a wider range of students from different places and cultures.  Quite a few of those present had spent short periods of time in the State of Israel.  They knew Hebrew very well and were educated about what is happening in Israel, the mood and the general picture.

After a short introduction around the table, we moved on to discuss mutual expectations between the undergraduate students and the Israeli Senior Leader students.  We heard various topics of importance to Diaspora Jewry, including the recognition of their Judaism according to the way each person believes and is educated in his home, the Orthodox monopoly on the question “Who is a Jew?”, the right of every person to pray in holy places, with emphasis on the events of the Western Wall, and more.  We debated which political and internal issues each side is “allowed” to intervene in, the significance of American Jewry’s important support for the State of Israel and the results of attempts to intervene and influence political life.

We were very happy to meet this wonderful group, to learn more, as we have been doing in the last month, about American Jewry, with its many facets.  We were glad to engage with the importance of understanding different cultures and the “languages” we use, in order to preserve or work towards unity, and in order to ensure that each side will preserve the dignity and interest of the other side.

I believe we all have one common goal, to take care of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

We were very pleased to see and appreciate the wonderful activity that Beit Hillel is doing.

Reducing ER Visits: Processing Our XBC*, by Dorit Tekes-Manova

*XBC’s are “cross-boundary collaboration projects” that WSL teams formulate and work on during their year in the program. They encourage collaboration across government ministries to address and improve every day challenges for Israeli citizens

Our team of 5 had 3 “experts” and 2 “outsiders” who delivered important questions and different points of view, while defining and analyzing the problem.  Each team member had their role, according to personal strengths, and the team leader encouraged every team member to speak up, and to take an active part in the final presentation.  I felt that working in a heterogeneous team made a difference and enabled us to tackle our XBC’s problem much better.

We engaged in “Stakeholder Mapping” and although at first I thought that the list was quite obvious in our XBC, it turned out that mapping the stakeholders with their obvious and hidden interests revealed a complex system of incentives and disincentives, which led various solutions in the past to fail.  Then we got down to defining what’s in and out of the scope of our project (this enabled us to narrow down to achievable goals, step by step), and to engaging in a root cause analysis.  We did so using the 4P model.  This enabled us to start with a long and varied list, and systematically narrow it to a working list of 3 major root causes, from which we could build our action items for the recommendations and for the pilot.

We used our insights from the XBC process, and the authority and responsibilities within our diverse team, to design the pilot.  And although after looking at benchmarks from all over the world, it seems like a non-solvable problem, I still feel quite optimistic that maybe, just maybe, our little team will make it happen, this time.

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Wexner Senior Leaders (2018) Muhammed Shameyeh

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Wexner Senior Leaders (2018) Ronen Shapira

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Wexner Senior Leaders (2018) Dr. Dorit Tekes-Manova