The Wexner Foundation is a charitable organization designed to enhance Jewish leadership founded by Leslie Wexner, CEO of Limited Brands and his wife, Abigail Wexner in Columbus, Ohio. There are three core leadership programs: Wexner Graduate Fellowship Program, Wexner Israel Fellowship Program and Wexner Heritage Foundation. In addition to the core leadership programs, the Wexner Foundation supports other Jewish charities on a local, national, and international level.
The first of the three core programs was founded in 1985. Leslie Wexner and Rabbi Herbert A. Friedman, the former CEO of the National United Jewish Appeal, established the Wexner Heritage Program. This program’s mission statement, according to the Wexner Foundation website, is “to educate Jewish communal leaders in the history, thought, traditions and contemporary challenges of the Jewish people.”
In 1988, the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Program was founded by the Wexner Foundation. It awards scholarships to 20 exceptional individuals in North America who wish to obtain degrees in Jewish education, Jewish leadership, rabbinical studies, or cantorate studies. The mission for this program, according to the Wexner Foundation website, is to “to encourage promising candidates to successfully meet the challenges of professional Jewish leadership in the North American Jewish community.”
The Wexner Israel Fellowship Program was created in 1989. It is a partnership between the Wexner Foundation and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The program selects 10 Israeli government officials to participate in leadership seminars. When finished with the Wexner Israel Fellowship Program, the participants are awarded a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree. The goal of this program, according to the Wexner Foundation website, is “to provide Israel's next generation of public leaders with advanced training in public management and leadership development, thus enhancing the quality of democracy and the institutional vitality of Israel's public sector.”
The Wexner Foundation headquarters are located in New Albany, Ohio. Smaller Wexner Foundation offices can be found in New York City, Israel, and at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The president of the Wexner Foundation is Larry S Moses.
The Wexner Graduate Fellowship Program financially supports graduate students planning a career related to Judaism. The program selects 20 students who wish to become a rabbi, hazzan (cantor), religious teacher, or any type of Jewish leader. Wexner Graduate Fellowships are given to students who are strongly committed to the Jewish community, have excellent grades, and show potential to become leaders. Each student selected receives $20,000.00 each year for up to three years to finance their education. Each student’s scholarship is dependent upon his or her grades and achievement. In addition, each Wexner Graduate Fellowship member participates in annual institutes where leadership seminars are designed to enhance the skills of emerging Jewish professionals. Graduate Fellowhsip Alumni continue meeting and building a newtwork throughout their careers.
The Wexner Israel Fellowship Program is co-sponsored by Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Center for Public Leadership. The Wexner Israel Fellowship Program pays all expenses associated for each participant including tuition, book fees, travel fees, etc. The Wexner Foundation also grants each individual a generous living stipend. These public officials must meet certain requirements set by the Wexner Foundation in order to participate in the program. These requirements are generally 5 years of experience working with the Israeli public, proficiency in English, and demonstrating leadership potential. The Wexner Foundation hopes that the graduates of the program will become great leaders in Israel someday. At the end of the program, each official is awarded a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree. Participants must attend leadership institutes sponsored by the Wexner Foundation throughout the year. After the program, the Israeli public officials return to Israel and serve in high government positions such as the Israeli Defense Forces. So far, the Wexner Israel Fellowship will select its twentieth class in 2008. Alumni activities are held throughout the year in Israel.
The Wexner Heritage Program focuses on helping volunteer leaders in the various Jewish communities in North America. The program intends to strengthen Jewish values and establish these values in the community. It is a two year program that consists of 36 seminars held in the local community and three summer institutes including one institute in Israel. All travel and associated expenses are paid for by the Wexner Foundation. The seminars focus mainly on four areas: traditions of the Jewish people, Jewish history, contemporary Jewish thought, and contemporary issues facing the Jewish community today. To become a participant in the Wexner Heritage Program, candidates must be nominated by their community. The participant must demonstrate commitment to the Jewish people through personal and/or professional leadership. After the program, the alumni are encouraged to continue their Jewish study and to exercise Jewish leadership locally, nationally or globally.
The Wexner Foundation also donates funds to other charities. The Foundation specifically donates to Jewish charities in Central Ohio. However, the it does contribute money to United States and Israeli charities.
Central Ohio philanthropies supported by the Wexner Foundation
United States philanthropies supported by the Wexner Foundation
Israel philanthropies supported by the Wexner Foundation
Many alumni of the Wexner Foundation's core leadership programs are successful and influential Jewish people in modern society.