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Announcing a Wexner Summit on Civil Discourse

Posted on Thursday, March 02, 2017

 כָּל מַחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, אֵין סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. אֵיזוֹ הִיא מַחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, זוֹ מַחֲלֹקֶת הִלֵּל וְשַׁמַּאי. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, זוֹ מַחֲלֹקֶת קֹרַח וְכָל עֲדָתוֹ

Any dispute that is “for the sake of Heaven” is destined to endure [it will have enduring value], but one that is “not for the sake of Heaven” is not destined to endure.  What is a dispute that is for the sake of Heaven?  This is a dispute of Hillel and Shammai.  And one that is not for the sake of Heaven?  This is the dispute of Korach and his group.

—  Pirkei Avot 5:17

In both Israel and in North America the ability to conduct civil conversation about issues that matter is a scarce commodity.  Polarization is the order of the day and the camps seem to be growing further apart, retreating to our echo chambers with only occasional forays into the worlds of those with whom we disagree, where the primary modes are personal attacks and talking past each other.

This state of affairs is no less true within Israel and the North American Jewish community — in each country and across the Israel-North American divide.  Middle East politics, religious practice and social issues top the list of hot-button issues that divide our community and are often avoided altogether.  This Summit will bring together those alumni of Wexner leadership initiatives who are committed to reshaping discourse in the Jewish world in accordance with values that animate the work of The Wexner Foundation: respect, open-mindedness, curiosity, pluralism and deep listening.

 Goals of this Summit include: 

  • To generate or build upon initiatives that bring together diverse groups across the North American Jewish and Israeli communities to discuss the crucial issues of our day.
  • To mine the resources (human, intellectual and spiritual) within the Wexner network that can contribute to those efforts.
  • To build skills among our alumni and strengthen their ability to be conveners of conversations across difference.
  • To model civil discourse and strengthen the Wexner community’s status as a model for this work.

The ultimate aim is that the strengthening of avenues for civil discourse will pave the way for the real work of leadership to take place: collaborative action and the kind of expansive and fearless imagination needed to address the challenges confronting Israel and the Jewish people worldwide.


  •  Participants must commit to attending both meetings:
    • December 3 - 5, 2017 in Princeton, NJ
    • Fall 2018 (location and exact dates will be announced in June, when the application launches)


  • Alumni of all Wexner Leadership Initiatives who have a special volunteer, professional or personal interest in this topic should apply (unfortunately, we are unable to include spouses/partners.)
  • Participants will be selected from among alumni of our five major programs (Wexner Heritage, Wexner Senior Leadership, Wexner Israel Fellowship, Wexner Graduate Fellowship/Davidson Scholars and the Wexner Field Fellowship).
  • All programmatic, hotel, food and travel expenses will be covered by The Wexner Foundation.
  • Participants must attend both Summits and be prepared to engage in ongoing work between and after Summits.

Not available for these dates?  Not your area of passion?  No worries!  There will be additional Summits in the future on other major topics facing the Jewish world.  Stay tuned...

The application for The Wexner Civil Discourse Summit will go live by the end of May.  We regret in advance that we cannot accept all of our phenomenal alumni.  Each Summit has a limited number of spots in order to maximize action and opportunity for engagement.

Questions? Contact