This Wexner Thing
It was one of those dark, stormy spring weeknights that had an autumn feeling to it — it's the kind of night when you cancel whatever is on your social calendar and cuddle up to re-binge Game of Thrones so that it's nice and fresh in your mind ahead of Season 7. Yet, despite all odds, 20 or so Russian Speaking Jews (RSJs) gathered all the way uptown — crossing 14th, 59th, 72nd, 86th and, oh-the-horror, even 96th Street — to end up in a gorgeous pre-war sprawler. We came eagerly to mix, mingle, mind each other's business, mince, merengue and even mope in true Russian fashion about our lives, all the while drinking Merlot and gobbling down M&Ms. Alumni of the first RSJ cohort (New York RSJ) met with members from the current class (New York RSJ 16), which is just completing its first year. What actually happened was that we both inspired each other, the new class by our stepped-up game of involvement in the Jewish world, our passion and confidence to navigate all those organizations with "J's" in their initials and we by their curiosity and enthusiasm.
So, that's the lead; but we are taught in Wexner that each leader needs to develop their own original voice and so, if you want insight into the internal processing of an RSJ (me), here is a more authentic narrative of the experience.
I walked in only half an hour late, wearing my wet rain boots. Not seeing any shoes in the vestibule, I took mine off, but wondered what the guests before me had done? Surely they didn't march into the house in their soaking street ones!? Joining the others in the living-kitchen, I right away discovered that I'm the only one shoe-less, which quickly became a mini obsession. Anxiously I scanned the floor to see if any other feet were to be found, but alas, only a three-year-old's naked toes were seen, surrounded by an army of Pradas, Salvatores, Guccis and an awkward couple: a pair of Eccos staring sheepishly at a Louboutin. Oddly enough they were all dry, which led me to believe that people either carry an extra pair (Why!?), travel exclusively by car sharing services (Pricey!) or use the toilet paper in the powder room upon entrance to pat down one's shoes before proceeding into the house (Weird!?) Whatever the case may be, the social norms of guests' wet shoes clearly escapes me.
Nervously I added my $40 dollar looking bottle to the collection, making sure the hostess saw the offering (actual cost: $13), poured myself what looked to be an actual $40 social lubricant and dove into the flowery field of RSJs, butterflying my way through like a blue-arsed fly.
The group, half alumni, half current cohort, mixed nicely like a White Russian, with the current class being the crisp, clear vodka, ready to take on the colors their Wexner experience drops into them, while the Alumni — a Kahlua, already cloudy, a bit more dense, holding on to its flavor, no matter who’s around. No Wexner mixer is complete without circle time and a bit of “let's tell our stories.” So, here too, without the watchful eye of Jay Moses and under the influence of a few of those $13 dollar wines, we ventured into a 119-minute cacophony, ranging from Golda Meir quotes (two!) to pleas for jobs (also two) to disappointment with how liberal the JCC on Upper West Side has become (just one) and a failed “circumcision for Nintendo” story which never quite got fully told (luckily, also just one), all mixed in-between your usual “I’m involved with this wonderful super-impactful organization which, if you care just a little bit about the future of Jewish people, you should absolutely support.”
One thing was clear, despite sharing a common language and a similar-ish background, the politics, values, knowledge of Jewish history, affluence, neighborhood, profession, etc., etc., could not be more diverse! Except for the common denominators: “we have to do more Jewishly,” a passion and energy to make it happen and a hope that this Wexner thing might hold the secret instruction manual on how exactly one does do it.
Anton Gorshkov, WHP Alum (New York RSJ), immigrated to US from Moscow, Russia with his family in 1992 as a teenager, quickly finding home at the J, playing basketball and working as a counselor at the summer camp. Upon graduating from NYU Poly, he joined Goldman Sachs as a junior analyst and stayed with the firm ever since. Throughout his 16-year career at Goldman, Anton has held a number of different positions in Technology and Quantitative divisions and is currently a Technology Fellow and a Managing Director, heading up the Goldman Sachs Asset Management’s (GSAM) Core Platform. At some point, Anton got interested in photography and wondered why he hadn’t been exposed to it earlier. To help others discover their inner-Brassai, he worked with the J to create a photography program for teens which served as a steppingstone in his communal involvement. He can be reached at antong at gmail.