THE WEXNER FOUNDATION
OUR YEAR IN REVIEW 2020 | 5780
HONESTY CONNECTION DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS
צמיחהADJUSTMENT CHALLENGE BALANCE RESET תמיכה
HEALING CONFUSION RETHINK HUMILITY
TABLE OF CONTENTS LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
WEXNER FIELD FELLOWSHIP CURRENT
WEXNER GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP/ DAVIDSON SCHOLARS PROGRAM CURRENT
WEXNER HERITAGE PROGRAM CURRENT & ALUMNI
WEXNER FIELD FELLOWSHIP & 12 WEXNER GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP/ DAVIDSON SCHOLARS PROGRAM ALUMNI WEXNER SERVICE CORPS CURRENT & ALUMNI
WEXNER SENIOR LEADERS & WEXNER 16 ISRAEL FELLOWSHIP CURRENT & ALUMNI WEXNER SUMMITS 19 GRATITUDE, LOSS AND STRENGTH 22 OUR TEAM 24 1
Dear Friends, Based on the sign offs I read in emails the last seven months, being safe, just, healthy, patient and kind represent collective wisdom of this chapter in history. The Wexner Foundation team has indeed endeavored to support the safety, well-being and health of one other, our Fellows and Members, our Alumni and our communities. Our funders and co-chairmen, Les and Abigail Wexner, have encouraged us to take care of ourselves and be mindful of the needs of the wider Wexner network. In that spirit, we will reconvene in person only when it is safe. The Foundation team has been tenacious, creative, collaborative and focused in adapting our work within the considerable limitations presented by COVID-19. Our funders join me in expressing gratitude to our talented group of professionals. Forgive the understatement when I say that this has been a year unlike any other. For that reason, I thought it important to share how we have been working these past months, including our ongoing efforts to transform both the form and content of our work. Over the course of the last 17 months, we have participated in difficult conversations regarding the abhorrent case of Jeffrey Epstein, a one-time trustee of the Foundation. All formal communications we sent related to this issue are here, including the independent report issued in February that found Epstein’s role with the Foundation to be as an administrative functionary limited to executing documents and other clerical matters. While our attention necessarily shifted to managing the ongoing demands of COVID-19, I want to share relevant information about our structure as well as actions we have pursued based on the report, other feedback and internal reflections: • Our Governance: The Foundation engaged an expert consultant to guide us through a deliberate and focused conversation. In addition to clarifying the role of our trustees, we are considering how The Wexner Foundation might strategically interact with other Wexner philanthropic entities. As this intentional and deep conversation progresses, including engagement of a new generation of the Wexner family, I will share relevant outcomes. • Our Status: We are a private operating Foundation. When our leadership initiatives were launched, Les determined that a qualified professional team would design, shape and execute the Foundation’s body of work. He and Abigail have always placed steadfast trust in the expertise of our staff and decisions about program, curriculum, hiring etc. are in staff hands.
• Our Funding: As President, I present to our chairmen a proposed annual budget prepared diligently by our dedicated and knowledgeable staff. Since we are not an endowed Foundation, the annual budget represents the costs to run our leadership initiatives for one fiscal year. Our funding, approved and provided solely by our chairmen and associated Foundation partners, is used exclusively for our leadership programs and for grants directly related to those programs. • Our Website: We have been discussing our website’s redesign, functionality, user experience and improved data base for more than a year. Also delayed by COVID-19, our new site will go live in the coming weeks. This time-consuming project provided us the opportunity to reconsider how we share our work and our values, how to feature more prominently the many achievements of the Wexner network, and how to make our leadership resources easily searchable. Our new website seeks to more effectively advance the leadership of the Wexner network and more fully detail the Foundation’s history, structure and the wider philanthropic legacy of the Wexner family. Like so many in Jewish organizational life, we have turned considerable attention to issues of racial justice, diversity and inclusion and to gender safety, respect and equity while also focusing considerable energy on the unique leadership challenges served up by 2020. • DEIJ Workshops: In my letter to you sent in early June, I shared a renewed commitment to racial justice both personally and professionally. Since then our entire staff has participated in a series of facilitated workshops focused on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. We are grateful to Imani Chapman, Franny Silverman, Ilana Kaufman and Ginna Green, for their wisdom and facilitation. We appreciate the support from other organizations and professionals who have advised us in this work including Avodah and Bend the Arc. We have been in conversation with many Wexner Members, Fellows and Alumni who shared views and strategies from their own experience. These conversations and internal workshops continue at their own pace, which we know is important for effective dialogue. We have maintained a rich and growing list of resources on the topic, which can be found here. • Gender Safety, Respect and Equity: In addition to a revised Code of Conduct required for all who participate in our programs, our Summit on this topic has generated important discussions and initiatives. As noted below, we are working on creating thoughtful curriculum modules on this very important topic. We cannot leave gender safety, respect and equity to chance or good intent. Building effective sessions on this topic relevant to exercising effective Jewish leadership in our organizations will be a focus in the coming year.
• Curriculum Considerations: We are in an extended research phase of collecting available curricular materials designed to teach those in positions of leadership/authority how to take seriously and make progress toward gender equity and safety in their organizations. We aspire to include workshops/classes on the topic to all of our Wexner cohorts in the future. The Wexner Heritage Curriculum is now piloting a new pluralism curriculum designed for volunteer Jewish leaders following a year of development and research. In an era where civil discourse is increasingly challenged, we seek to prepare our Fellows and Members for thoughtful engagement with one another even across wide gaps of difference. • Cohort Diversity: One of our Foundation’s hallmarks and a core value, our Program Directors are working to expand our reach in order to be as inclusive as possible at The Foundation and for all of our Fellowship and Heritage Cohorts. While a pressing concern, we realize this is a long-term project for The Foundation as it is for the wider Jewish community and our work in this area will continue in partnership with local communities and institutions. I am exercising leadership using an expanded and at times never before imagined skill set honed during the highly challenging times the Foundation has faced this year. Together with our staff, I am patiently working in collaboration with so many of you to contribute to building to a safer, healthier, more just and kinder 5781. While not exhaustive, this “Year-In-Review” highlights the various programs, opportunities, support frameworks, continued leadership and Jewish learning platforms successfully developed by the Foundation these last months. When it was clear that our lives and thus our work would be dramatically changed due to the pandemic in the early months of 2020, our Foundation team promised and delivered on intense efforts to benefit all of our Alumni. Since that time, we have seen hundreds of you in Zoom learning calls, virtual convenings, dialogue groups, courses and class meetings. We have checked in with all of you and in turn heard from hundreds and hundreds of you eager to share ideas, updates and gratitude. Perhaps more than ever before, your work inspires ours.
Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson President 4
WEXNER HERITAGE PROGRAM
CURRENT & ALUMNI
A Year of Resilience (and a few questions) The Wexner Heritage Program (WHP), comprised of the 120 Members who were current participants in the program in 2020 and 2,300 Alumni across North America, has weathered the storm of COVID-19 with creativity and grit while exercising new leadership muscles. Can We Start? New Cohorts Three new cohorts were chosen from New England, Portland and Cleveland. However, COVID-19 delayed their launch until Summer 2021. Until then, we are offering these eager incoming Heritage Members leadership learning and Torah study from time to time. How great to connect in advance of the New Member Institute! Can we Continue? Current Cohorts Just like that, our bi-monthly in-person seminars went remote and we moved six active cohorts to online learning, with our commitment to excellence and content never wavering. We learned, tinkered, clicked, swiped, consulted and brainstormed to deliver best practices for online learning. We empowered, convened and counseled faculty and set up guidelines for our online classes.
We provided emotional and spiritual support to Members throughout the year. We did our best to support them in exercising leadership around unprecedented (you knew that word was coming) communal and spiritual needs. We designed and executed our first-ever virtual Summer Institute and â&#x20AC;&#x153;the mountains in the backgroundâ&#x20AC;? took on a whole new meaning. The planned 5-day in-person Institute for 120 participants (plus spouses) was converted to a 3-day virtual conference with cuttingedge technology and world-class faculty. We tried new engagement tools and other new tech to enable virtual dining tables for meal dates, a live concert, a variety of prayer experiences and private conversations between Members and faculty. In the wake of COVID-19, the Wexner Heritage Program has developed a new, forward-looking curriculum to provide our Members with hands-on skills and tools, and to learn from the best in the field of leadership learning, in order to deepen their ability to be changemakers and to lead effectively in these challenging times. 5
We built an arc of 15 seminars, each one focusing on leadership development skills relevant to this moment. The curriculum is divided according to distinct units following the year-long theme of “Communicate, Analyze, Create and Implement.” The specific leadership skills include training in design thinking, collaboration, team building, online presence, conflict resolution and fundraising. We invited local Jewish professional leaders within each community for a series of conversations with our Members. We seek to be effective thought partners on how best to meet the local challenges and opportunities of this moment. Happening Now We have developed a shiny new unit on Jewish Pluralism, taking a deep dive into the what, why and how of a core Wexner value. The curriculum model represents a new approach to the teaching of and communicating with one another about pluralism. This effort is part of the Portraits of Adult Jewish Learning Project with the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis, and represents a unique contribution to the field of adult Jewish learning. We look forward to sharing more about this in the next year. The pilot phase has been very exciting for both teachers and receptive students. Alumni Initiatives Even before COVID-19 we were seriously considering how to pull off quality online learning and virtual connecting for WHP Alumni. No time like the pandemic to transform ideas into reality. • Twenty-five selected Alumni participated in “Adaptive Talmud,” a 5-part online series. The course merged Talmud text with adaptive leadership skills relevant for the day’s challenges.
Quickly we sensed that shelter-in-place was an important time to “Learn-in-Place.” Hundreds of WHP Alumni participated in networkwide online learning on Adaptive Leadership and Friday morning Torah learning. The Torah series is now in its third iteration and will continue through the end of the year and into 2021.
Can We Connect? Partnerships We are blessed with wonderful community partners. We are grateful for their patience and willingness to delay their start dates. Our Heritage schedule is filled up until 2025 and many conversations are taking place with eager communities looking to enrich the development of their beloved leaders. Can We Evolve? Gender Equity and Racial Justice We are reinforcing WHP’s commitment to gender equity and racial justice with focused sessions at the Summer Institute and as units of the curriculum during the year.
“It has been an immense honor to learn with an amazing group of peers, a phenomenal group of teachers, and to continually be challenged and inspired.” WHP Alum Erica Krissel, Atlanta 18
Can We Connect More Deeply? Alumni Initiatives, Learning and Sharing • Heritage Alumni are nothing if not determined. Cohorts from one year ago and 25 years ago continue to meet. They are brainstorming, problem solving, learning Torah and “hanging out” on Zoom or in person from safe distances. Dozens of classes have connected since the onset of COVID-19, providing a profound source of learning, sustenance and reconnection. •
WHP Alumni Council, an engaged and energized representative group of Alumni from Heritage Communities, gathered for a two-day online meeting of the Delegates from each community. Delegates shared their ongoing leadership challenges as well as best practices and the ways in which they are leading their communities through a time of crisis.
• 2020 Heritage Graduates are gathering for a unique and optional third-year program. The newly designed curriculum is focused on the needed leadership skill sets for this unique time.
BY THE NUMBERS WEXNER HERITAGE PROGRAM
ALUMNI & MEMBERS
WORLD-CLASS FACULTY TEACHING PER YEAR
PARTICIPATING HERITAGE COMMUNITIES
ALUMNI AND MEMBERS WHO SELF-ORGANIZED CHECK-INS
600 & counting ALUMNI AND MEMBERS WHO HAVE ZOOM-GATHERED TO LEARN AND SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER VIA NETWORK CALLS 7
WEXNER FIELD FELLOWSHIP CURRENT FELLOWS
“I can point to multiple moments when this learning has tapped me on the shoulder during the pandemic, as if to say “I’m here! Use me! I’m the tool you need right now!” WFF Erica Frankel, Class 3 A Year of Peer Support Wexner Field Fellows (WFF) have continued to rely on and support each other throughout these challenging times. The inaugural class graduated and joined the Alumni network, attending their first WGF/DS/WFF Alumni Institute in early 2020. Our Field Fellows are constantly leaning on each other these days and they are extraordinarily grateful for everything they have received – especially each other and the personal coaching. How Are We Growing? Our Active Fellows The Wexner Field Fellowship welcomed 15 Fellows to Class 4 in early March, just before the pandemic hit. The 45 current Fellows were able to take advantage of the Foundation’s last in-person Institute in 2020, building relationships and learning how to have difficult conversations and negotiate more effectively.
Continued Commitment to Learning The WFF Fall Institute was a virtual gathering. (But we are getting really good at this.) Our two current classes continued their leadership development focused on Adaptive Leadership with Maya Bernstein and Storytelling with Aaron Henne, while the graduating class synthesized their Fellowship learning and explored Racial Justice and Jews of Color with Ilana Kaufman. But wait! There is more! With the generous support of the Jim Joseph Foundation, we have extended professional development funding deadlines to enable Field Fellows to maximize their professional development resources through the pandemic.
Looking Back and Planning Ahead Rosov Consulting completed a 3-year evaluation and Theory of Change for the Wexner Field Fellowship. Having this report will help us invest in leaders into the future and populate the pipeline! After the WFF Fall Gathering, we asked how the WFF has supported Fellows during COVID-19 and uncovered that the leadership seminars, coaching and particularly the cohort have been invaluable during this time. Going Forward In the Fall of 2020, we began recruitment for WFF Class 5, hoping to build on the inroads we have begun to make to ensure diversity across different demographics – from accessibility and sexual orientation to race and geography.
BY THE NUMBERS WEXNER FIELD FELLOWSHIP
WFF LAUNCHED AS INDEPENDENT INITIATIVE
CURRENT FIELD FELLOWS
FIELD FELLOW ALUMNI
“The last 6 months have really challenged and ignited my leadership. The coaching, professional development and support from my cohort has 100% positively impacted my leadership ability. I have delegated more, realized my capacity, and changed my personal perspective on what is possible.” WFF Matt Weintraub, Class 4
COACHES AND JEWISH EDUCATORS
WEXNER GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP/DAVIDSON SCHOLARS PROGRAM CURRENT FELLOWS
A Year of Community The Wexner Graduate Fellowship/Davidson Scholars Program (WGF/DS), comprised of 60 current Fellows and hundreds of Alumni, tapped into the power of the deep relationships and engaged community that has been cultivated over three decades. With a goal of supporting our talented Fellows managing new professional challenges in response to COVID-19, the WGF/DS team adjusted to a “socially distant” community and created new ways of leveraging the deep commitment and care felt across the network.
A Pause in Onboarding… Interviews for WGF/DS Class 33 were scheduled to take place just as the pandemic hit with intensity. Given the many unknowns, we decided to suspend the selection of a new class. While a hard call to make, we are confident that it was the right one. And while uncertainty about travel and gatherings still remains, we are looking forward to onboarding a new class in the Spring of 2021, making adjustments as needed to maintain rigorous safety standards. Applications are open and information for potential candidates is here! …As the Community Moved Online Our current Fellows adjusted to graduate programs pivoting to virtual and brought a sense of energy and creativity to our first-ever virtual gathering, held in place of our treasured Summer Institute in Stowe, Vermont. The group of 60 Fellows came together over the course of three days in August to learn, share, laugh, dance (ever join a virtual dance party?) and reconnect with one another. The Foundation delivered the swag and our Fellows brought deep learning to one another. We invited WGF/DS and WFF Alumni to teach some sessions, a new element we were able to offer because we were virtual. One day of the convening was dedicated to learning about anti-racism through a Fellow-led Beit Midrash program and a full- Fellowship training with experts.
“I am ever-grateful to be part of this incredible and one-of-a-kind pluralistic Jewish community that indeed inspired me, and continues to inspire me all the time.” 10
WGF/DS Jackie Rafii, Class 31
Focus on Racial Justice Dozens of Fellows joined discussion groups on racial justice as a way of furthering their learning in the unique WGF/DS space. Groups, facilitated by volunteer Fellows and Alumni, launched in the summer and allow for honest conversations, questions and organizing. Connections Continue Fellows have been organizing class meetings on Zoom, connecting on WhatsApp groups, and engaging with the broader WGF/DS community on our Wexnet listserv, which has been going strong from more than 25 years! Small groups hold case consultations to provide peer support to one another, and staff are always available for coaching and support.
BY THE NUMBERS
WEXNER GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP/DAVIDSON SCHOLARS PROGRAM
EMAIL THREADS ON WEXNET IN 2020
NUMBER OF WGF/DS DIRECTORS WHO STILL WORK AT TWF (ALL OF THEM!)
PARTICIPATED IN ADAPTATIVE LEADERSHIP ZOOM CALLS
WEXNER FIELD FELLOWSHIP & WEXNER GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP/DAVIDSON SCHOLARS PROGRAM ALUMNI
A Unique Year. Unique Accomplishments. Together, the Wexner Graduate Fellowship/Davidson Scholars Program (WGF/DS) and Wexner Field Fellowship (WFF) comprise an Alumni network of nearly 600 Jewish Professionals that span geography, denomination and professional responsibilities. As Alumni and Fellows found themselves with a range of new professional challenges and needs this year, we rolled out a menu of new opportunities for support, connection and learning.
Networking, As Always In early 2020, we held the first-ever joint WGF/DS and WFF Alumni Institute. The focus of the institute, planned in partnership with Foundation staff, was Power, Privilege & Philanthropy. Alumni offered skills-building sessions, a Beit Midrash program, and examined these important topics through personal and professional lenses. Our WGF/DS/WFF listserv, Wexnet, continues to serve as our virtual coffee bar for daily conversations on live issues, needs, shout-outs, favors and ideas.
We’re Here for You When WGF/DS/WFF Fellows are selected, we welcome them into this community with a commitment well beyond the several years of their active Fellowships. Since the pandemic began, our WGF/DS/WFF team has checked in with all of our Alumni and Fellows individually and brought over 200 Alumni and Fellows together on a community Zoom reunion call, followed by class meetings. We’re available to all Alumni and Fellows for personal conversations, counsel and brainstorming (and we love to hear updates). Everyone Needs a Good Mentor Our Mentorship Program (in partnership with the Jim Joseph Foundation) is now in its seventh year, having engaged dozens of Alumni and Fellows as both mentors and mentees. We retooled the program to accommodate COVID-19 limitations and have found that the learning is just as rich online. Mentor-mentee pairs, unable to visit one another through site visits, have found all sorts of creative ways to further their learning together. “Holding Groups” for Alumni and Fellows We celebrate diversity at The Wexner Foundation, but sometimes what Alumni most need is a chance to be with others who find themselves in a similar situation. We launched affinity groups on topics including work-life balance, sandwich generation: caring for parents and children, managing up, and day school leadership – all affected, of course, by life in a pandemic. Facilitated by volunteer Alumni, these small groups meet regularly via Zoom and provide welcome support.
“Kosi revayah [my cup overflows]. Thank you for all you do. Being a part of this community is truly an immeasurable gift.” WGF/DS Alum Rabbi Audrey Marcus Berkman, Class 15
Professional Development Doesn’t Stop in a Pandemic Knowing our Alumni would need to flex new leadership muscles, we made professional development funds available to our Alumni in partnership with the Jim Joseph Foundation and the William Davidson Foundation. More than 100 Alumni received funds to support their own directed learning through opportunities including:
Focus on Racial Justice Alumni and Fellows worked with the WGF/DS/WFF staff to organize discussion groups on anti-racism and racial justice, tapping into the diversity of this community as well as providing the “safe space” to ask questions, share concerns, and learn in small groups. More than 80 Alumni and Fellows participated in these groups, some of which are still meeting, as our work in this arena continues. Adaptive Leadership Course We offered a 6-part workshop with adaptive leadership experts at KONU. This was a refresher course on this particular leadership framework The Wexner Foundation has advanced for many years. Participants reviewed and deepened their understanding of core elements of adaptive leadership and then convened in small groups for case consultations using real-life challenges. We have heard from both current Fellows and Alumni who were in the Fellowship decades ago that this was an important opportunity enabling them to apply the wisdom of adaptive leadership to current challenges and to expand their own network of peer consultants.
• Diversity/Equity/Inclusion training • Executive coaching • Writing classes • Language classes • Jewish learning and spirituality • Fundraising Skills & Strategies Commitment to this Community Runs Deep The WexCoComm, a committee of WGF/DS/WFF Alumni dedicated to cultivating and strengthening our quickly growing community, didn’t miss a beat when COVID-19 struck. Meetings moved online as new initiatives were developed in partnership with WGF/DS/WFF staff, and WexCoComm Members continue to serve as an important resource for our entire community.
BY THE NUMBERS
ALUMNI & FELLOWS
HOLDING GROUPS CONNECTING ALUMNI AND FELLOWS AROUND PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES
CURRENT MEMBERS OF WEXCOCOMM
RECEIVED SPECIAL COVID-19 PD FUNDING
ALUMNI AND FELLOWS ENGAGED IN RACIAL JUSTICE CONVERSATIONS
MENTORS AND MENTEES IN MENTORSHIP PROGRAM (100 PAIRS TO DATE)
WEXNER SERVICE CORPS CURRENT & ALUMNI
“I was able to see how privileged I truly am, which makes helping others so much meaningful. Being increasingly aware of things that I had previously taken for granted, I am now able to reflect more on what is a necessity versus a luxury.” WSC Member Phoebe Wasserstrom, 2020
A Year of Virtual Kindness The Wexner Service Corps is blessed to find ways to shift our program’s focus. Disappointed that we cannot do our service learning in person, we have transitioned to virtual service opportunities focusing on kindness. Our teens are engaged in “g’milut chasadim” (acts of loving kindess). Connecting while staying apart. WSC 2019/2020: When Things Changed In early January 2020 (remember January?) we visited Lifetown in New Albany, OH, a model city designed to provide children with special needs opportunities to learn about real-world scenarios in an engaging setting. Our Wexner Service Corps (WSC) ran the “town’s” pet shop, beauty salon, movie theater, bank, library and traffic circle, supporting children with disabilities with smiles and kindness. Later in the year, our 40+ member group divided up and some volunteered and learned about food scarcity at the Broad Street Pantry, while others gathered at the Ronald McDonald House to cook and serve dinner to about 50 guests. Our teens were chopping, stirring, mixing and serving side-by-side with one another and with new acquaintances. We had no idea how precious this memory would become - time spent together in person.
And then the familiar COVID-19 shift happened and with dogged determination we answered this question, “What does virtual service look like?" Well...this! In May of 2020 we welcomed guest speaker, U.S. Congressman Ted Deutch from Florida for an inspiring virtual end-of-year ceremony. It was sweet and while not the culmination we had planned, it was surely memorable. WSC 2020/2021: We Got This With the understanding and deep-seated belief that each and every person can make a difference in the world no matter where they are, and that no action is too small to make an impact, we envisioned and created a meaningful, virtual Service Corps. Our Senior Leaders Cohort (select, second-year WSC Seniors,) worked on leadership skills and group building with outstanding faculty from across the country, the virtual advantage! (All the content, none of the flight delays.)
With Fall 2020 came a “Choose your own virtual tikkun olam adventure.” We will provide the learning, the service ideas and tons of love and support for the #WSCkindnesschallenge. Our teens will share with other WSC Members what they are up to using our repair the world toolkit. The themes of our outreach will vary, but likely will include the Jewish calendar, voting, “bringing and being a light,” reading buddies with KIPPsters and connecting with residents at Wexner Heritage Village, two initiatives also spearheaded by our funders. Maybe by Spring 2021 we can chop, cook, sort and read shoulder to actual shoulder. No matter what, we will provide our incredible teens with inspiration. We will connect them to meaningful work and to each other. We will continue to make our world a better, sweeter and kinder place to live, especially during a pandemic.
BY THE NUMBERS WEXNER SERVICE CORPS
STUDENTS WHO HAVE PARTICIPATED
SERVICE HOURS SINCE PROGRAM BEGAN
PARTICIPANTS IN SLC
ORGANIZATIONS SUPPORTED ACROSS COLUMBUS & THE US
JEWISH LEARNING HOURS 15
WEXNER ISRAEL FELLOWSHIP & WEXNER SENIOR LEADERS CURRENT & ALUMNI
A Year of Innovation The 30-year old Wexner Israel Fellowship (WIF) Alumni community and the more recent, Wexner Senior Leaders (WSL), established in 2015, are networking, collaborating, bridge building and consulting throughout the year. Not to mention these Fellows and Alumni are holding down incredibly influential day jobs. We are so proud of the impact they are having across the civil service of the State of Israel. The COVID-19 crisis kept them busy both at home, at the office (or at the home office) and in our Wexner Network. Wexner Israel Fellows at Harvard Kennedy School: In-Person and Virtual After a first semester of extraordinary classes and programming with the Center for Public Leadership, WIF moved everything to virtual platforms. That included all end-of-year programs and yes, our seven Israel Fellows graduated from Harvard from their living rooms. Fellows organized a virtual “Festival of Ideas” that included six guest faculty who taught on Israel’s Health Policy in COVID-19, the IDF’s response to COVID-19 and other leadership topics. The spring institute in Washington, DC, was (wait for it) virtual. The class had a relaxed and meaningful Zoom conversation with Les and Abigail Wexner. 16
Wexner Senior Leaders: Oh So Close and Yet... From February and into mid-March 2020, the sixth cohort of the Wexner Senior Leaders traveled to Cambridge planning to spend a month-in-residence at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). As the COVID-19 crisis escalated, our 42 WSL Members scrambled to make it home only three days before the official close of the program. They arrived in time for the first lockdown and on what may have been the last direct Boston-Tel-Aviv flight this year. Many were central in managing the crisis itself in Israel. A brief respite from COVID-19 in July made possible an in-person closing seminar in Israel, with HKS Chairman Prof. Brian Mandell and Foundation President Rabbi Elka Abrahamson participating via Zoom.
2020: What We Could Not Do We selected WIF Class 32 in March while clinging to optimism. You know where this ends up, right? Travel abroad was not an option, so our newly selected class was invited to defer for one year. It is our hope (cue the optimism) that in July 2021, the Fellows already chosen for Class 32 will merge with a cadre of yet to be selected Fellows. We are in the process of selecting a new class having recently passed the deadline for accepting new applications. Many questions remain despite Israel’s COVID-19 ups and downs and is raising questions about future travel abroad. 2021 Wexner Senior Leaders: (Maybe?) A Summer in Boston! Due to the continued uncertainty created by the pandemic, the traditional February start date for WSL has been postponed to July 2021. No winter coats for this group! And no certainty on gathering in July. How Do we Go Deeper in the COVID-19 Era? Unique Alumni Opportunities • Our annual WSL Network Winter Institute took place in January 2020 as scheduled. The attendance and spirit were terrific. Presentations by leaders of the network’s professional forums resulted in expanded participation in these ongoing professionally focused round tables. Also, two new professional forums, one focused on the Southern Region and one on Welfare Forum, were successfully launched. •
We were very excited about a first-ever combined WSL-WIF Alumni institute. Modeled after Summits, interested Israel Alumni Network Members will commit to a year of collaboration focused on challenges of Israel’s north (the Galilee). This institute had been in the planning stages for a long time and the issue itself is very important. Though not as imagined, we are determined to meet and to find ways to meaningfully collaborate! A virtual version of this combined convening will feature Professor Ricardo Hausman, Harvard Kennedy School.
Wexner Israel Forums Professional forums are our primary platform for collaborative learning and action. It all started with a Women’s Forum two decades ago. In recent years, with increased Alumni interest in collaborative initiatives, five more forums were established, including Innovation, Healthcare, Welfare, Negev, Human Resources and Strategic Planning, and others are simmering with activity: •
The health crisis created opportunities for a variety of ad hoc initiatives by and for Alumni and Network Members. They included learning opportunities and professional collaborations related to managing COVID-19. We launched a public campaign to raise the visibility of the Wexner Israel community’s considerable contributions to the public service.
The Israeli community actively participated, as both viewers and presenters, in the Foundation’s Zoom webinar series on Adaptive Leadership in Radical Uncertainty. Five Israel Alumni who studied Adaptive Leadership at Harvard and are now professional Adaptive Leadership facilitators, ran a six-session webinar and peer consultation series for 35 alumni and Senior Leaders.
“I’m thrilled to see, time and again, how easily and swiftly our network enables the Wexner community to collaborate, break down boundaries, streamline procedures and pool resources.” WSL Alum Nir Rosenthal, 2018
BY THE NUMBERS WEXNER ISRAEL FELLOWSHIP & WEXNER SENIOR LEADERS
Many unplanned collaborations within the Wexner network began with requests to Foundation staff to find suitable partners within the network. In other cases, network Members seeking help, posted their needs on the community’s WhatsApp groups and quickly found partners for professional collaboration. Peer consultations conducted in the professional forums provided opportunities for partnering and collaboration around COVID-19 related challenges.
Stewards of the Wexner Brand: Israel Alumni Speak Up Over the course of the last several years, the Wexner Israel Fellows have come under attack from fringe interests characterizing our Alumni as willing pawns in an attempt to somehow infiltrate Israel’s public service. The Foundation itself has been delegitimized in this process. These attacks, as noted in this article by the former civil service commissioner, are entirely unfounded and designed to erode trust in Israel’s public service more broadly, as detailed here. Over the summer, these marginal attacks, which have now subsided, reached mainstream media in Israel aided by ugly lies tweeted by Yair Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s son. We have conducted interviews on Israeli television to share the facts about our Foundation and the Fellowship. A number of Wexner Israel Alumni came together and are funding an independent defamation lawsuit, paid for with their own funds, against Yair Netanyahu following an ignored request for an apology. The Foundation is deeply grateful for the rigorous efforts of our proud and deeply committed Alumni. 18
279 WIF ALUMNI
WEXNER SENIOR LEADERS
WEXNER SUMMITS A Year of Connection In 2016, the Foundation launched Wexner Summits: The Network in Action. Summits offer platforms for select North American and Israeli Alumni across five of our programs to engage in deep dialogue, learning, problem-solving and collaborative work. Wexner Summits mobilize a limited and focused cadre of change agents who work in teams over the course of a year to address shared challenges. How Can We Make a Difference? Our Active Summits Summit on Gender: Safety and Equity in Jewish and Israeli Work Space and Life Sixty-seven Alumni convened near Washington, DC, in the fall of 2019. Participants learned together about advancing Jewish and Israeli organizations aspiring to create safe and equitable workplaces in accordance with Jewish values. Small groups of Alumni strategized about making change on these issues in their spheres of influence. Many outstanding projects emerged, small and large, local and systemic.
We know that these issues have not gone away and reportedly have grown more serious during COVID-19. While Summit participants remain committed to advancing initiatives, some adjustment to work plans and a slowing of progress has been inevitable. Our Gender Summit participants have created a Menu of Options for anyone wishing to take on personal or organizational change to move the needle on gender equity and safety. The Foundation has joined many organizations in committing to a Code of Conduct, which all participants, staff and faculty must sign as a prerequisite for participation in events. Can we Push our Leadership Forward? Our sixth summit, this one focused on Leadership Skills, was planned for Cambridge, MA, but was conducted virtually (in our first pivot with only weeks to shift), using faculty from the Harvard Kennedy School. We invited 150 Wexner Alumni to participate and all engaged online with meaningful skills-based learning via Zoom. We launched our â&#x20AC;&#x153;True North Groups,â&#x20AC;? reflective cohorts of 4-5 participants who will guide each other through the year offering mutual support, wisdom and serving as a brain trust across time and space. We shall meet in person! Both Summits will continue with periodic online learning, convenings and listservs to keep the momentum going. We plan to gather participants for the second capstone gathering of each Summit once conditions allow. 19
Want to See How We Made a Difference? More Alumni Initiatives Dozens of projects born of Wexner Summits continue to thrive. Take a look!
“Thank you all for a wonderful and meaningful session! The timing was perfect as we enter the Fall season with most of us moving indoors, and also for the New Year. Thank you for all you do for the community and for us as we search for ways to support our communities during these uncertain days.” WHP Alum Lynn Gordon, Montreal
BY THE NUMBERS WEXNER SUMMITS
ALUMNI PARTICIPANTS SINCE 2016
SUMMIT PROJECTS IN ACTION
LIVE SUMMIT EVENTS
Thousands CONNECTIONS ACROSS THE NETWORK
THE WEXNER FOUNDATION
Gratitude, Loss and Strength I conclude with two important thoughts. The first is hakarat hatov/ הכרת הטוב, gratitude or, if translated from the Hebrew literally, recognizing the good that every Foundation staff member together with this expansive Wexner network has pursued during these uniquely challenging times. Your efforts to advance Jewish learning with tenacity, agility and creativity, and to exercise leadership for your communities are exceptional. COVID-19 caught us off guard and yet we see how you are meeting the moment over and over again. Like you, we at the Foundation are reimagining how we lead. Together we are expanding our visions of what community looks like, what engagement looks like, how to define affiliation and how we live out a renewed commitment to inclusivity and open wide our doors to all Jews. With all of the good, this review would not be complete without recognizing how difficult this year has been. The number of losses, both great and small, are piling up at the doorstep of every home. All of these losses weigh upon every heart. In the cycle of The Wexner Foundation’s year, our in-person institutes, sitting around the same table seminars, relationship building at Summits or schmoozing over dinner with someone we just met are among the most powerful experiences within our community. We all miss these opportunities. Our online offerings, as good as they are, cannot duplicate the classroom, the mountain song or, let’s face it, the dessert buffet. While insignificant when compared to the far more serious losses of 2020, it is important to name explicitly just how much we miss being together in person and how disappointing, especially for our current Fellows and Members, the loss of the expected Wexner cycle has been. We are steadfast in our commitment to excellence. Like you, we are working toward that goal from the safety of our own homes. I am confident that with continued patience, we will move together from strength to strength.
Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson 22
BY THE NUMBERS THE WEXNER FOUNDATION
WexChange Information The Wexner staff is eager to make important connections between Alumni within and across our unique network. Think of us like operators on an old-fashioned switchboard. We can help make the connections, or you can search on your own using the new and improved WexChange database. Whatever projects, problems, positions or programs are on your mind, find out who has the wisdom and experience to help. Or you might be just the advisor someone else needs.
ATTENDEES ON ADAPTIVE LEADERSHIP AND TORAH ZOOM CALLS FROM MAY THROUGH JUNE
ALL STAFF ZOOM CHECK-INS FROM OHIO, NEW YORK, BOSTON AND ISRAEL
STAFF MEMBERS WITH MORE THAN 10 YEARS AT THE FOUNDATION
ALUMNI, FELLOWS AND MEMBERS OF WEXNER FOUNDATION LEADERSHIP INITIATIVES
“I am confident that with continued patience, we will move together from strength to strength.” Rabbi Elka Abrahamson 23
RABBI B. ELKA ABRAHAMSON PRESIDENT ANGIE ATKINS DIRECTOR WEXNER HERITAGE ALUMNI
DANA SAVORAY-HADAR DEPUTY DIRECTOR ISRAEL OFFICE RABBI SHARON BARR SKOLNIK PROGRAM DIRECTOR WEXNER SERVICE CORPS
RAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ANAN AVITAL DIRECTOR GENERAL ISRAEL OFFICE
RACHEL SOSIN CHIEF OF STAFF
RABBA YAFFA EPSTEIN DIRECTOR WEXNER HERITAGE PROGRAM
BECCA THOMAS DIRECTOR COMMUNICATIONS
DARA KATZNER PROGRAM COORDINATOR TRISHA KURE ADMINISTRATIVE ASSOCIATE OR MARS VICE PRESIDENT RABBI JAY HENRY MOSES VICE PRESIDENT
RUTHIE WARSHENBROT DIRECTOR WEXNER FIELD FELLOWSHIP MELINDA SECREST WHITTINGTON DIRECTOR BUDGET AND FINANCE KEREN ZEFANIA PROGRAM MANAGER WEXNER ISRAEL FELLOWSHIP
STEFANIE ZELKIND DIRECTOR WEXNER GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP/ DAVIDSON SCHOLARS PROGRAM DR. TALI ZELKOWICZ DIRECTOR CURRICULUM AND RESEARCH SHARON ZINI PROGRAM COORDINATOR
ADDITIONAL SUPPORT LORI BARON CONSULTANT FOR OPERATIONS ELISHA GECHTER SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL LARRY S. MOSES SENIOR PHILANTHROPIC ADVISOR PRESIDENT EMERITUS
J E RUS A L E M
8000 Walton Pkwy, Suite 110 New Albany, OH 43054 (614) 939-6060
420 Lexington Avenue, Suite 330 New York, NY 10170 (212) 355-6115
3 Kiryat Hamada St., Har Hotzvim Building D, 11th floor Jerusalem, Israel (02) 563-7035