Some say that one person cannot change the world.

We believe meaningful change always begins with one person.

The Wexner Foundation trains and inspires 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 gives them tools 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 their leaders more skilled, visionary and collaborative.

For 35 years, The Wexner Foundation has never wavered from its focus on leadership in the Jewish world and Israel. The Foundation’s professionalism, standards of 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.

Photo by Zion Ozeri.

Our Values

We strive to pursue all aspects of our work with integrity, transparency and excellence. The values outlined here are qualities we aspire to express in our own exercising of leadership as well as cultivate in all of our Wexner Alumni, Fellows and Members. While this list is not by any means exhaustive, it represents a set of values that characterize the spirit we bring to both our learning of Torah and our study of leadership.

גיוון/Geevan/Diversity

Kol yisraeil aravim zeh b’zeh…All Israel, our sages insist, is responsible, one for the other.

We stretch Wexner circles across different expressions of Jewish life in North America and across the spectrum of Israel’s citizens. The Foundation’s methodology of developing leaders relies on building diverse cohorts of talented individuals who develop unique bonds. We count on our cohorts to honor each other’s truth without eroding the importance and vitality of your own. In a circle of Wexner learners, participants strengthen and sharpen one another’s leadership agenda. Abiding by established rules of engagement Wexner participants are expected to conduct civil discourse across differences. Giving others the benefit of the doubt as to their sincerity and integrity forms the baseline of healthy relationships and enables the building of effective and enduring teams. We are responsible for one another.

בינת לב/Binat ha’Lev/Emotional Intelligence [interpreted]

We value emotional intelligence, binat ha’lev, a heart of understanding.

The midrash teaches that the heart holds over 60 emotions. It sees, hears, speaks, stands, rejoices, weeps and comforts. Emotional intelligence is measured by an intentional effort to be self-aware, to master reflective practice and demonstrate the capacity to listen, to manage our own desires, to face our fears and biases and to be open with our vulnerabilities, to be attentive to the full range of the heart itself. An understanding heart must be intentionally cultivated and requires regular, even daily practice.

סבלנוט/Savlanut/Patience

Practice patience. Savlanut.

Communal change is not sudden. Silver bullet…quick-fix thinking tends to oversimplify the reality that to move forward we need to be active on dozens and dozens of fronts. Patience paves the way to a discovery of what will advance our communities. Persistence is required to reveal our passions…and to connect those passions to purpose. Patience calls on us to go slow to go fast. Savlanut is an essential value during the sometimes-long hours, the drawn-out processes of decisive action.

ענווה/Anavah/Humility

We seek to cultivate humility in Wexner leaders. Humility pushes open wide the gateway to new        learning. It facilitates listening and the ability to self-coach. In a humble stance, we embrace our shortcomings and learn of our blind spots. The path to meaningful collaboration, necessary for a vibrant Jewish future, is built on a foundation of humility. Making room for others, knowing when to speak more/speak less and when to say nothing is paramount to the effective exercising of leadership..

“It is not necessary to be afraid of greatness because it inspires us to do great things. But, he cautions, invest much effort in clinging to humility so that the greatness to which we aspire is for a holy purpose.”

– Rav Kook

סאקרנוט/Sakranut/Curiosity

“…hafoch ba v’hafoch ba, turn it and turn it again for everything is in it.”
Pirke Avot

When Ben Bag Bag tells us to keep turning the pages of Torah over and over again he is teaching us ceaseless curiosity. He is telling us to ask more and more questions. Current organizational perimeters make us comfortable and lull us to be overly cautious rather than wondering what else could be. We habitually argue for “what we always have been” over energized tinkering and playful conversation about “what might we become?” To paraphrase Albert Enstein, “We cannot solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions.”

שמחה/Simcha/Joy

A person in a joyful mood can learn more in an hour than a somber person can learn in many hours.

– Ruach Chaim

Humor is necessary in pursuing our mightily important work. Simchah, joy is essential to leading, sometimes even during seasons of despair. Laughter fuels our energy…leadership, though a serious undertaking should also be fun, playful and joyous. Leading should be uplifting, feeding and not diminishing the light of the neshama, our spirit and soul.

אופטימיות/Optimiut/Optimism

We fill our kos kiddush, our wine cups, to the very top every Shabbos. It is a siman bracha, a sign that we are pursuing lives of full blessing.

Leaders must hold up high the promise of a brighter future. Belief in a better future makes the possibility of that future all the more probable. The pessimist accepts the world as it is, rather than seeing how the world ought to be. Our optimism is inevitably eroded by nightmarish cycles of ugliness and division, yet we cling to optimism. Each week, when we allow the dust of the prior six days to settle, we, again, fill our kos kiddush to the brim. The cup is full, and we repeat over and over l’chaim. To life.

History & Mission

In the early 1980’s, Les Wexner reached the conclusion that what the North American Jewish community and the State of Israel needed most was stronger leadership. When established Jewish organizations showed relatively little interest in the development of leaders, Les decided to take up the mission, and The Wexner Foundation launched its own leadership initiatives.

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Applications for Class 5 of the Wexner Field Fellowship are now open. Apply today.