History & Mission
The Wexner Foundation strengthens leaders in the North American Jewish Community and the State of Israel. Through diverse, cohort-based educational programs, the Foundation invests in promising professionals and volunteers and inspires them to exercise transformative leadership. Working in partnership with other foundations, philanthropists, and communities, the Foundation strengthens North American Jewish life and Israel’s public sector by making leaders who are more skilled, visionary, and collaborative.
The Wexner Foundation’s work began in the 1980s in response to a growing sense of urgency about the need for strong leaders in the North American Jewish community and in Israel.
Originally there were two separate and parallel organizations: The Wexner Heritage Foundation launched the Wexner Heritage Program and the Wexner Foundation created the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and the Wexner Israel Fellowship. In 2005 the two foundations merged, and since then The Wexner Foundation has run all three programs as a unified organization. Since 2013 The Wexner Foundation has launched four additional programs to expand upon its mission of strengthening Jewish leaders: Wexner Service Corps (2013), Wexner Field Fellowship (2013), Wexner Senior Leaders (2015) and Wexner Alumni Summits (2016).
The Wexner Heritage Program (1985) provides young North American Jewish volunteer leaders with a two-year intensive Jewish learning program, deepening their understanding of Jewish history, values, and texts and enriching their leadership skills. By the end of 2019, more than 2,205 North American Jewish leaders from 35 cities will have participated in the program.
The Wexner Graduate Fellowship Program (1988) was created for outstanding rabbinical students and graduate students in Jewish education and Jewish communal service programs. In its early years, the Foundation established a grants program for academic institutions of all types to build and improve training programs for Jewish community professionals. Eventually, the Fellowship Program was expanded to include top candidates for academic Jewish studies and the cantorate. By the end of 2019, more than 570 outstanding Jewish professional leaders from a wide array of religious affiliations and professional groupings will have participated in the Wexner Graduate Fellowship/Davidson Scholars Program.
The Wexner Israel Fellowship Program (1989) annually selects up to 10 outstanding mid-career Israeli public officials to study for a master's degree in the mid-career program of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. The goal of the fellowship is to provide Israel's next generation of public leaders with advanced leadership and public management training. By the end of 2019, 270 Israeli public officials will have participated in the Israel Fellowship, including leaders who have gone on to become Directors General of government ministries, Generals and Commanders in the Israeli military and top advisers to Prime Ministers.
The Wexner Service Corps (2013) is a program designed to inspire and unite Columbus-area Jewish teens to engage in service learning. The Service Corps is open to high school juniors and seniors to participate in a year of monthly volunteering and Jewish learning and a week-long service trip. A select group of Corps members can return for a second year to join the Senior Leadership Cohort (SLC). The Service Corps launched in June 2013 with an inaugural service trip to New York and has since served in New Orleans, Houston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and most recently in Detroit. Columbus Jewish teens have cumulatively put in thousands of service hours into serving both the Columbus community and the communities it visits.
The Wexner Field Fellowship (2013) is a special opportunity to grow as a Jewish professional, deepen your leadership skills and develop a rich network of colleagues to support your career. The Wexner Field Fellows Program, in partnership with the Jim Joseph Foundation, aims to provide opportunities for professional growth to promising Jewish professionals who plan to continue to pursue a career as a professional leader in the North American Jewish community. More than 60 Field Fellows have engaged in the program since its inception.
The Wexner Senior Leaders Program (2015) is an executive model leadership initiative and aspires to leverage The Wexner Foundation’s long-established partnerships with the Israeli Government and Harvard University with the goal of strengthening Israel’s public service leadership. The program aims to strengthen skills and design strategies for leading transformative change, acquiring new tools for better decision making, and developing strategies to be employed by some of Israel’s most promising and influential senior leaders in the public sector. To date, more than 200 executives have taken part in the Senior Leaders program.
From its origins in the 1980s, The Wexner Foundation was a pioneer in the field of Jewish private philanthropy, a field that has grown to include dozens of foundations that devote themselves on a national and international scale to the needs of the Jewish people. In the last decade, the Foundation has actively pursued partnerships with communities, foundations, philanthropists, alumni, federations and other stakeholders in our work. The Wexner Foundation has never wavered from its focus upon Jewish leadership. The Foundation’s professionalism, standards of program excellence, and strong relationships with Jewish communities and organizations have created a model of practice for Jewish private philanthropy that has stood the test of time.