The WHP Alumni Council is made up of delegates from the 30-plus communities across North America where we have held the Wexner Heritage Program. Delegates help promote the Wexner Network so that alumni can leverage each other to become more effective leaders in order to exponentially impact and improve the Jewish community and our future. We hold quarterly video conferences and meet annually in person.
Jill Max (WHP Alum, Baltimore 10)
The Hebrew word for humility is anavah. According to Mussar tradition, genuine humility is associated with healthy self-esteem. The idea is to try always to achieve a balance between believing one is taking up neither too much nor too little space. By taking up just the right amount of space, we leave room for others.
Participating a few weeks ago in my first in-person gathering of the Wexner Heritage Alumni Council was a humbling experience. Just to be in the room, sharing a sacred space, with this incredibly passionate, intelligent, talented, insightful and committed group would have been enough — Dayenu. However, to have the opportunity to think, learn, laugh and dream with them, with beloved Wexner faculty, with the wonderful staff and, of course, the new Heritage members was exactly what gave me the Rocky Mountain high that I came to Snowmass hoping to find. I returned to Baltimore energized and excited to share all of the great new things that are happening across the Wexchange, and profoundly grateful for the opportunity to add my own voice and talents to these endeavors.
Jill Max is the Director of the Baltimore Hebrew Institute of Towson University with a 24-year history of work in the Baltimore Jewish community. She lives in Baltimore with her husband, Aaron, and has two children, Jake, 21 and Samantha, 19 who are both in college. Jill is a graduate of Emory University and the dual masters degree program, formerly known as the Baltimore Institute for Jewish Communal Service. She serves on the Israel and Overseas Committee, the Learning Commission and the Leadership Support Committee of the Center for Community Engagement and Leadership and the Board of Directors. Jill currently chairs the Israel Engagement Center and outside of the Associated serves on the Board of the Krieger Schechter Day School of Baltimore. Her interests include running, reading, writing, mosaic artistry, and music.
Jonathan Berkowitz (WHP Alum, Vancouver)
Every year I attend the annual convention of the National Puzzlers’ League, an organization founded in 1883 devoted to word play and word games of all types. About the convention we say, “It is important to spend a few days each year with people from one’s home planet!” The annual in-person meeting of the Wexner Heritage Program Alumni Council provided a similar experience, but instead of being with people from one’s home planet, we were with people from the same home, the same heart and the same hokhmah.
We, as Wexner alumni, are the embodiment of Margaret Mead’s quotation, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” We might want to consider an addendum based on one of The Wexner Foundation’s guiding principles, namely, that if you can get the right people together, in the same room at the same time, the good that can come from it is immeasurable and the power that it can generate is unstoppable. That is the feeling I came away with from Snowmass.
One of our delegates, Alan Stern, said, “There is no greater investment, no greater bang for the buck than a community investing in the Wexner Heritage Program.” He’s right – so many people in top leadership (Jewish and general) positions in the United States, Canada and Israel have had a Wexner experience, and that is a testament to the value of the programs. Communities with Wexner alumni are the richer for it, and that makes the entire Jewish people richer for it.
At our learning session with the Rabbi Ed Feinstein (the rabbi everyone would love to call “my rabbi”), we were reminded that Jewish leaders need to speak two languages, the language of the institutional and the language of the spiritual. Each has a set of values and a set of solutions. As leaders, we need the flexibility to know when to use each and when to use both. These roles and identities are brilliantly characterized in the text we studied from, Joseph Soloveitchik’s The Lonely Man of Faith. Soloveitchik writes, “… the Bible offers two accounts of the creation of man… [they] deal with two Adams, …, two representatives of humanity, and… they are not identical. To live one’s life as both types of Adam is what Jewish leaders, and indeed all Jews, should strive for. Because, as we learn, dignity is discovered at the summit of success; redemption in the depth of crisis and failure.
We met at Snowmass near the summit of the American Rockies, and we were reminded of the dignity we attain through leadership. And just as important, we were reminded that we have each other to help redeem us when we fail and when we are in crisis. There cannot be a greater gift.
Jonathan Berkowitz, Ph.D. (Statistics), has nearly thirty years of experience in applied statistics. He began a consulting practice in 1987, and is president of Berkowitz & Associates Consulting Inc. Jonathan also retains involvement in academia; he is a Full-Time Instructor with the Sauder School of Business, and Associate Member of the Department of Family Practice (Faculty of Medicine) both at the University of British Columbia. He has a long track record of volunteerism in the Jewish community include serving as President of Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and General Chair of its Combined Jewish Appeal, President of Congregation Beth Israel, and Vice-President of Vancouver Talmud Torah School. Currently he represents Vancouver at the National Board of Canadian Jewish Federations.
Sonia Cummings (WHP Alum, LA/Endeavor)
- Good new term: the “ABC’s” for a meeting: Affective (what do you want people to feel); Behavioral (to DO); Cognitive (to KNOW)?
- “Start (your project), small to build it faster later on…Read, read and continue to read about leadership skills, about great historians and leaders, read as much as you can.” Les Wexner’s advice to us in his living room
- “Leadership is Avodah” — service and work. We need to return to the nobility of leadership. Good leaders stay true to their mission.
- Adam 1 versus Adam 2, the pragmatic business leader and the leader with compassion, kavanah.
- Life events turning one into a “Shiva Evangelist”
- Actions and collaborations to reduce emissions at the state level in Colorado
- The Art of Listening Exercise, from Ilan
- Example of a secular model in the arts for youths at risk brought to Akko, Israel
- Chabad’s Friendship Circle and what they’ve done in Pittsburgh
- Wexchange a better tool to network and connect alumni
Delegates Annual Meeting, 2017 = New friendships formed, deep respect, admiration for one another’s work, lots of humor, lots of deep from-the-heart-moments, a sense of hope and a continuous desire to accomplish more in our respected communities and with Israel and in doing Tikkun Olam.
Sonia Simon Cummings has been an activist/professional volunteer, focusing on the environment, the arts, coexistence and Jewish Life. Prior to her involvement in the independent sector, Sonia spent 20 years in the design industry as product developer in the US, Japan and China. She created textiles for architectural firms, in France and Italy, was a trend forecaster for major manufacturers and retailers across the US, developing licensees and merchandising concepts. Sonia is also a fine arts painter and is currently working on a video/book project on legacy.
Moj Khagan Danial (WHP Alum, Miami 11)
Sunday August 6th
Years later, a diverse, brilliant and stimulating group of seasoned Jewish souls from across North America is back in the mountains where many of us embarked on our enhanced journey of learning and leading. There is tremendous gratitude in each and every heart, along with a healthy dose of inspiration and devotion to continuity, sustainability, resilience and reinvention. Typical of any Wexner experience, the sounds and images come fast and furiously. So many great ideas, unparalleled connections, springboard topics, so little time. Adams 1 and 2 examined with Rabbi Ed Feinstein — every leader struggles with how to do things right for the the right reasons.
Monday Aug 7th
Morning prayers are full of meaning and music, Parsha Ekev. Learning with Les and Abigail Wexner — sharing, caring, focusing our inner selves on greater and greater needs and purposes. Learning with Dr. Erica Brown — good leadership, bad leadership, no leadership. Swaying versus forward movement and progress. Stepping up as willing and courageous leaders, overcoming reluctance and blame. Passive versus active engagement.
Tuesday Aug 8th
An active listening exercise led by one of our own group — being fully present in every endeavor, even in a very short span of time. Ending our time together by planning for the future with Cindy Chazan, and a spiraling vision circle: “In one year’s time, I want to be…” back with my Wexner family of friends, leaders, movers and shakers, finding inspiration again.
Moj’s Jewish renaissance and activism began in her late teens after emigrating to New York from Tehran. Having completed college and law school in NYC, she and her husband relocated to Miami where her professional portfolio grew in Jewish leadership, philanthropy and civic engagement. She has served as Women’s Philanthropy chair and currently is Planning & Distribution chair at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. She is a long time board member, now vice chair, of the Public Health Trust of Jackson Health System, Miami Dade County’s tax payer owned and operated hospital system. Recently she was appointed to the Housing Authority of City of Miami Beach, and she is seamlessly transitioning to activism in the public housing arena. In her spare time, she tries to be a great wife and mother to three young men who have flown the coop.
Jay Liberman (WHP Alum, Dallas 13)
Since reserving my flight in April, I eagerly awaited the Wexner Heritage Alumni Council gathering for all the obvious reasons. As with previous institutes, my passion for Jewish leadership and learning would be fueled by the exceptional faculty and leaders with whom I would share the experience. What I did not predict was how this group would help me through a personal crisis. Upon landing in Aspen, I learned that our family dog Chloe had taken a significant turn for the worse and might not survive until my return. Chloe (whom we adopted one year into our marriage) had been given a terminal diagnosis eighteen months earlier but had survived beyond all expectations. As the hours passed, health quickly deteriorated and on Monday morning she was gone forever. Added to the sadness of losing a loyal companion, I was devastated to be so removed and unable to console my family. At the urging of my wife, I remained in Aspen not sure how I would make it through the days. Over the course of our short time together, however, the WHA Council (knowingly and not) helped me through this very sad time. From one delegate’s presentation on compassionate approaches to end-of-life to another’s off-line recommendation of a book to help my young children through their grief, these newfound friends gave me strength and prepared me to better support my family upon my return. The empathy, support and inspiration turned out to be just what I needed during this difficult time. We often exult the vast benefits the WHP brings to our broader Jewish community, but this year I experienced a very personal blessing of Wexner for which I am forever grateful.
Jay lives in Plano, TX along with his wife and children. Jay attended the University of Texas at Austin and spent some time in Houston before moving “home” again in 1998. A loyal fan of the Dallas Mavericks, it is only fitting that the Mavs would clinch their only title on June 12, 2011 (Jay and Julie’s 7 year wedding anniversary). Serving the local and Jewish communities is a family affair for the Liberman Family. Jay and Julie previously co-chaired the Young Adult Event for the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and participated in their Leadership Development Group. Literally growing up at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas, the majority of Jay’s recent efforts have been at the J. Having served as a director, treasurer and vice president, Jay became chair in June, 2016.
Billy Medof (WHP Alum, Atlanta 10)
Wexner Heritage participants and alumni know well that unique dynamic of team and community building in their Wexner classes. That first summer institute of some new and some familiar faces; a year of learning to learn together; that second summer institute and the excitement of spending time in a beautiful place learning with now old friends; a second year learning and wondering together where each in our class might be going in his or her life of Jewish leadership; and our third summer institute, sealing our experience and wishing the whole thing didn’t have to end.
We alumni who met a few weeks back in Aspen must be seasoned pros, then, because we seemed to compress the lifecycle of a two year Wexner Heritage cohort into a two-day learning, sharing, growing and caring experience in the beautiful Colorado mountains. I am, and we surely all are, so grateful for the two days together with close friends.
Billy Medof, an alum of the Atlanta Wexner Heritage 2010 class, is president of Georgia-Pacific Corrugated, which includes over 35 packaging plants across the United States. Before joining GP, Billy worked as director of business development at Delta Air Lines, an investment banker with Citigroup in New York, and as a field artillery officer in the United States Army. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point where he earned a degree in engineering physics. He later earned an MBA from Columbia University in New York. Billy is a member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta board of directors, the Weber School board of directors, and the AIPAC National Council. Billy, his wife Alli, and their three boys have been members of Congregation Etz Chaim since moving to Atlanta in 2003.Billy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.