In photo (left to right): WHA Archie Gottesman (MetroWest 08) and WIF Esti Shelly (Class 26)


Last week we had the pleasure of bringing together ​current Wexner Israel Fellows (Class 26) with a wonderful group of Wexner Heritage and Graduate Fellowship alumni in New York City. We loved seeing the connections begin and received emails from participants effusively expressing how meaningful and substantive they found the conversations. Our time together was indeed short – two days, and everyone commented that they could have kept going for a week. 

Here are some comments from participants:

Having an honest conversation that put conflicting views on the table for discussion is a sign of depth and real work. So much of the conversations we have today stay superficial and sterile.
For me the fact you created an open discussion about the places that really hurt was the most important achievement. 

Toda Raba,
Erez Padan (WIF, Class 26)

The timing couldn’t have been better. First, it takes time to understand and learn the diversity of values and views of the Jewish community and after 8 months in the Fellowship we have a much better understanding of those things which enabled us to do a deep dive into the most controversial discussions. Second, especially these days where the relationship between US and Israel are at the center of public interest, it is so important to be able to have difficult conversations with the Jewish community.

Esti Shelly (WIF, Class 26)

Meeting with the Wexner Heritage Alumni – all community pillars who shared from their considerable depth and insights – was a stimulating and very engaging experience. We were touched by the warmth of our reception and the welcoming embrace of our hosts.

We all appreciated the opportunity to go deeper on contemporary questions relating to Jewish identity, purpose and on taking the lead in Israel and in North America. 

In presenting their work and personal stories, Rabbi Joanna Samuels, David Cygielman, Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Mordy Walfish and Dr. Will Recant engaged and impressed us with the fruit of their labor and commitment. They provoked thoughts and dialogue on priorities, goal setting and differences of opinion. 

Thanks to all who spared their time, energies and resources to contribute to our learning.

Aaron Fortus (WIF, Class 26)


I found the program extremely worthwhile and urge its continuance.  ​After the ​Israeli election, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Israeli and American Jewish communities are regrettably moving in very different directions. In line with the efforts of the Wexner Foundation, the problem comes back to one of leadership. After discussing a number of specific examples, it becomes apparent that the lack of insightful and clear analytic thinking is mind boggling. Without trying to sound ridiculously alarmist, I fear for the impact of polarization, alienation and antagonism on the American Jewish experience.  The opportunity to expose Israelis to these concerns was invaluable. I really appreciate your including me.

Peter Joseph (WHA, NY/Skadden)