Tammy Dollin, WGF, Class 1
What struck me immediately was the magnitude and the import of the event. I entered the ballroom filled with 1200 people, all gathered in gratitude to recognize and communicate the impact of the nearly $1 billion investment in Jewish leadership made over the last 30 years by Les and Abigail Wexner. The room was filled with enormous potential, an electric energy, ideas born and nurtured, conversations to be had and connections to be made. True to Wexner form, every detail was attended to with the utmost thought and highest quality, from welcome greeters at the airport to the gift box of cookies pressed discreetly into our hands as we parted. We thanked our benefactors with our presence and our ovations, our gifts of more than two thousand new books for a new KIPP school supported by Abigail, our words of tribute lovingly bound into a book to be treasured. This was not a looking back, but a looking ahead — a ‘commencement’ — a window into what was possible. It is all too rare in our communities to experience such respect and inclusion of diverse voices and opinions, but here among these ‘Wexnerians’, this is the language we have been taught to speak. Our challenge in the next 30 years is to bring these lessons powerfully forward, into our initiatives and organizations; dreaming big and acting bigger. FUN: Fierce Urgency Now!
Tammy Dollin is the Founder of Walk Talk Discover LLC, which offers leadership coaching with purpose and heart. Tammy is the author of L’Chaim, A Zayde Adventure! Memoirs of a Rabbi’s Life, published by iUniverse in 2008. She lives in Denver with her rabbi spouse and is very nearly an empty nester. Tammy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Orli Garti-Seroussi, WIF, Class 8
This weekend was one of the most special experiences I’ve ever had. It was inspiring and exciting. But the most powerful thing about it were the people…I wish I had been able to meet more of the extraordinary individuals who attended.
Orli Garti-Seroussi is an independent consultant specializing in public and non for profit organizations. Until recently she served as Deputy Director and CFO of the Jerusalem Cinematheque — Israel film archive. Formerly, she served as the Director of the Bureau of Municipal Corporations in Tel-Aviv-Jaffa Municipality. In this capacity she was in charge of 33 corporations owned fully or partially by the Municipality, managing an annual budget of over 1.5 billion shekels. Orli can be reached at email@example.com.
Rich Kasper, WHP, Phoenix 1
Two sentences from Leslie Wexner’s opening remarks felt equally terrifying and optimistic: “The destiny of the Jewish people is in our hands.” And, “You have to believe you can change the world.” The next 24 hours were more than mere food for thought. They offered the kind of “fix” that comes from being saturated in the thought-provoking, energizing inspiration that characterizes the “Wexner” experience – and from interacting with people who truly are changing the world.
Rich Kasper is President and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix. He was previously a partner at Ryan Rapp & Underwood, PLC, and a board member of Planned Parenthood Arizona and several Jewish organizations in Greater Phoenix. He received a B.A. from Oberlin College and a J.D from the University of Southern California. Rich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Blass, WIF (Class 14 and former Chair of the Israeli Alumni Council)
So glad I came all the way from Jerusalem to Columbus to hear Leslie Wexner twice sharing his thoughts with us. How important it is to remember to look at the future and the next steps for Tikun Olam, and not sink in thoughts about the past. The second highlight was to see the Foundation’s power of organization. Everything went just as planned, and that was great!
Malkiel (Mike) Blass was the Deputy Attorney General for Legal Counseling at the Attorney General’s Office in the Ministry of Justice until 2012. Previously he was a member of the Israeli legal team in the delegation for negotiation with the Palestinians on the Gaza and Jericho Agreement, negotiations on elections to the Palestinian Authority and negotiations on the Interim Agreement, and was involved in the Israeli legislation process to implement the agreements. Since 2012, Mike works as a lawyer and teaches in the School for Public Policy and Government in the Hebrew University. He specializes in Public Law, ethics of public officials, prevention of corruption in public service and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Maureen Komisar, WHP, Milwaukee 1986
There was electricity flowing as we all recharged from the fabulous speakers, including Abigail and Leslie Wexner, Elka Abrahamson and Shimon Peres. Peres’ speech, with stories of leadership from Ben Gurion to Bibi, was inspiring. Each one of us was able to sharpen our tools and pick up a few new ones so that, as Sarah Wexner said, “not only can we change the world, but WE MUST.” As Elka charged us in her parting words: “change comes from one person: be that person.”
Maureen Komisar is from one of the first Wexner Heritage classes (Milwaukee 1986). She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Jewish Museum Milwaukee, and on the Executive Committee of the State of Israel Bonds – Wisconsin. She previously worked as an attorney and as a co-owner of Biltrite Furniture, her family’s business since 1928. Maureen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Yesterday, the Wexner Foundation marked its 30-year anniversary in Columbus, Ohio.
Among other things, the foundation identifies promising young leaders in the Israeli public arena and hones their leadership skills by providing them an opportunity to acquire their Masters’ degrees at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
The Gala event and the entire conference dealt with leadership in general and Jewish and Israeli leadership in particular and included inspiring examples of social entrepreneurships which have tremendous impact both in the US and globally.
The friends, with whom I had spent my year in Boston and who are photographed with me, represent for me “Eretz Israel Ha’yafa- the beauty of Israel”. They are people of value, knowledge and execution and such who know how to give the community over and above what is expected of them- not because they have to, but rather because that’s their expression of leadership.
The events and the participants strengthened in me the notion that giving to the public is in fact, receiving…
That the strength of the Jewish People – in Israel and the diaspora- stems from our respect of the future and our giving and work in the present on the one hand, yet while strategically panning and working towards the future of the Jewish peoplehood on the other hand…
We are a part of a significant continuum and our actions in the present have much impact upon future generations- much as the impact which the generations which preceded us had upon us.]
Marc Kramer, WGF, Class 8
The past 24 hours have been a breathless (if sleepless) experience. The 30th Anniversary Celebration has been an extraordinary opportunity to reflect upon the tremendous impact of The Wexner Foundation on the Jewish world, but more so, to dream about the challenges that we must face in the 30 years to come. I am so honored, and so humbled, to be part of this joyous community of learners and leaders.
Marc Kramer is the Executive Director of RAVSAK: The Jewish Community Day School Network, the North American association of pluralistic day schools. Marc lives in New York with his partner, Jeffrey, and their three children. Marc can be reached at email@example.com.
Karen Herron, WHP, DC 13
The 24-hour, forward-looking celebration of where The Wexner Foundation is headed after its first 30 years wove lessons from ancient texts to social innovation to forge a path for this unparalleled community to exercise its moral imperative to heal the world.
Visionary leadership insights ranged from Les’ application of retailing principles to change the landscape of the Jewish community and Abigail’s humble sharing of lessons learned in fusing fields to expand boundaries, to optimistic wisdom from the Honorable Shimon Peres who advised that “a leader is an expert in what might happen.” Leaders must constantly balance broad needs that are both immediate, recognizing the Fierce Urgency of Now (FUN!), and transformative, through Systems Thinking. In the midst of unfolding devastation in Nepal and breaking reports of violence in Baltimore, we were challenged to consider how crucible moments can alter our trajectory and gifted rare tools to calibrate our moral compass to guide us on a continuing journey.
Karen Korn Herron is a member of the DC13 Wexner Heritage Program. Through her leadership of the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation of Greater Washington, Karen pursues social change for women and girls in Israel and the Greater DC community through collective grant-making as well as educating and creating awareness of critical issues. Karen may be reached at KbHerron@me.com.
Ilan Gewurz, WHP, Montreal 09
In his closing remarks, Les Wexner said that nothing compares to “the power that comes from people being in the room together.” While there were many great teaching moments throughout the reunion – finding our true north; being ready to fail and start up again; Tikkun Olam and more – what distinguished The Wexner experience lies beyond the content of its classes. By bringing together more than 1,200 Jewish leaders, all committed to learning, personal growth and the future of the Jewish people, the Wexner Foundation created the framework – indeed a powerful sacred space – for personal transformation and leadership development. The 30th Anniversary reignited my passion for innovation in Jewish education.
Ilan Gewurz is Executive VP at Proment Corporation, an urban planning and real estate development firm. He is also an adult educator and facilitator of negotiations and leadership development workshops and developed the LD program for Federation CJA. Ilan has a passion for creating unique and meaningful spaces where people feel safe and thrive. He received a B.A. in Political Science from McGill University, an M.A. from the London School of Economics and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. Ilan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laura Cutler, WHP, DC 03
Being with the “leadership of the leadership” was inspiring! Former President Shimon Peres said the greatest resource of the Jewish people — led by Moses to a land without oil (!) — is PEOPLE. Ben Gurion was an amazing leader because he was an expert in things that hadn’t happened yet; innovation has been Israel’s hallmark since the beginning! What a privilege to network with so many social innovators this past weekend. Les Wexner said “follow your North Star/refocus on your higher purpose/be open, adaptive and willing to learn”. One of the things he said that stuck with me the most was the importance of “GETTING PEOPLE IN THE ROOM” (not on the phone or by email). It was a blessing to be in the room with so many inspiring leaders of leaders whose work makes such a difference in the world. Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof!
A former commercial banker, Laura Cutler is thoroughly enjoying her second career as Managing Director of the American University Center for Israel Studies. She is a community activist and active member of the Washington, DC Jewish community, where she has been a tireless advocate for innovation in Jewish education. Laura can be reached at email@example.com.
Jennifer Weinstock, WFF, Class 26
At 3 PM on Sunday, 1200 Wexnerites stood and clapped, and they didn’t stop for three whole minutes. Les Wexner had just taken the stage for the opening of the celebration and the room was vibrating with deep gratitude and authentic reverence. In the 24 hours that I was in Columbus, I had dozens of profound conversations with a wide range of Jewish volunteer leaders and professionals. I was inspired by their work and felt the personal charge to repair the world. The outpouring of gratitude for Les, Abigail and The Wexner Foundation, seeing, hearing and feeling this collective Hakarat Hatov, was something I will never forget. Our gratitude is a reminder of all the work left to do in the world, but what an amazing reminder it was.
Jennifer Weinstock is the Senior Development Officer at Gann Academy in Waltham, MA and a current Wexner Field Fellow. Previously, Jennifer worked at the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, and Combined Jewish Philanthropies. Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she was very active in Hillel, and lives in Brookline, MA, with her husband Amiel and three sons who all attend Jewish day school and Jewish camp. Jennifer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bernard Pinsky, WHA, Vancouver
Les Wexner’s opening speech set out his challenge to us. He said it is going to take a lot of Jewishly-educated, dedicated and creative leaders to ensure the continued immortality of the Jewish people: his incredible optimism and openness to change made me realize we would, together, succeed.
Bernard Pinsky is a Corporate/Securities Partner at Clark Wilson, a law firm in Vancouver, Canada. He is a board member of the Louis Brier Jewish Aged Foundation and has previously served as VP Budget/Treasurer and a national board member of the Jewish Federations of Canada. Bernard can be reached at email@example.com.
It’s incredible to take stock of everything The Wexner Foundation has achieved over the past 30 years. The Foundation’s unparalleled investment in 2500 leaders — introducing them to brilliant peers, high caliber faculty, and cutting-edge ideas and skills — continues to transform our community. No less, my fellowship experience transformed me as a person and a professional, offering me novel ways of understanding myself and the choices we have in any moment to exercise reflective, smart and generous leadership. Thank you for this opportunity to celebrate and look towards the future together.
Justin Rosen Smolen is the associate director of the National Incubator for Community-Based Jewish Teen Education Initiatives at the Jewish Education Project. Previously, Justin was director of program and strategy at PresenTense, where he oversaw accelerator programs for social innovators in cities throughout North America and developed trainings and networking opportunities for local partners. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.