Einat Wilf ’96 is Israel’s Scarlet O’Hara; at least, that is how her long-time friend Meredith E. Bagby describes the newly-elected Labor Party representative.
“Einat thought of herself as a Scarlet O’Hara. She had this strong association with the character, she even looked like her,” Bagby explains. “She is willing to work very hard to be a heroine for her country. That is her aspiration; that is who she is.”
Pursuing a degree at Harvard was part of her plan to become a leader in her country, and her experiences at the University helped shape her political course.
Elected to the K’Nesset, the Israeli parliament, on Jan. 10 to replace Labor Party representative Ophir Pines—who resigned when the liberal Labor party decided to join the conservative Netanyahu government—Wilf says that while naturally limited as part of the minority party, she believes that as one of only 120 members of the Israeli parliament she will have a large podium for her agenda, which is focused in large part on reforming the Israeli education system.
Drawing on her experience at Harvard, Wilf is interested in reforming the Israeli educational system, which is highly professionalized due to mandatory military service and splintered by numerous groups, such as the ultra-Orthodox, who demand the right to their own educational establishments.
“I am a big proponent of the core curriculum,” says Wilf. “I think it’s a great idea, and we should engage in the political battle to define the core curriculum, while preserving the proper margins for subcommunities to define their educational values and for experimentation of new ideas and new subjects.”
Wilf says that there are four key ideas she would draw upon from her time at Harvard to shape Israel’s educational system: the liberal arts curriculum, diverse extra-curricular opportunities—Wilf tried her hand at everything from squash to DJing while in college—the “discipline of learning,” and “a real-life example of how a private institution can actually support important social values.”
Despite her passion for affecting change, Wilf did not go directly into politics after college. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Government and Fine Arts, she worked for a few years in consulting at McKinsey & Co. before earning a MBA from INSEAD, an international business school in France, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Cambridge.
Wilf talks about her years working in business as steps off the track of her ultimate path.
“Coming out of Harvard you have the expectation that somehow the world is just waiting for you to graduate to roll out the red carpet, and it’s very disorienting when they don’t,” she says. “The only ones that do are the consulting firms.”
But Wilf says she “snapped back” out of the jaws of consulting, and her subsequent political career is part of an effort to give back to her motherland and the hallowed halls of her alma mater.
“By realizing your capacities and going after your dreams, you are not just helping yourself but repaying a debt to this institutuion,” she says. Several of Wilf’s former professors affirm that their former pupil has lived up to the expectations of the University she admires.