The Wexner Foundation

The Wexner Foundation -

The Wexner Foundation, known in Hebrew as קרן וקסנר, is a Jewish-American philanthropic organization. The foundation operates educational and leadership development programs for professionals with the aim of strengthening leadership and managerial excellence in the public sector in Israel and Jewish communities worldwide.

The President of the foundation is Rabbi Elka Abrahamson, and the CEO of the foundation in Israel is Ranen Avital.


The Wexner Foundation was established in 1980 in Columbus, Ohio, USA, by Abigail and Leslie Wexner. Leslie Wexner, a Jewish billionaire, is the owner of L Brands, formerly known as The Limited, which is the parent company of Victoria's Secret.

He was a major donor to the Republican Party until 2018 when he announced his departure from the party due to disagreements with President Trump's administration and expressed support for the Democratic Party.

The philanthropy of the Wexners is directed towards two main channels: education and science in their hometown of Columbus and leadership development in Israel and Jewish communities.

The foundation's headquarters are located in New Albany, Ohio. Additional offices are situated in New York, Jerusalem, and at Harvard University.

United States

The foundation's first core program was established in 1985. Leslie Wexner and Rabbi Herbert A. Friedman, formerly the CEO of the United Jewish Appeal, founded the Wexner Heritage Program.

The program's goal is to "educate Jewish communal leaders in the areas of Jewish history, Zionism, the Hebrew language, and Jewish philosophical thought through the traditions and contemporary challenges of the Jewish people."

The Wexner Graduate Fellowship Program was founded in 1988 with the aim of encouraging promising candidates to excel in Jewish professional leadership roles in North American Jewish communities.

Fellowships are awarded to twenty outstanding candidates who, while pursuing their second degree, prepare themselves for careers in Jewish education, rabbinical roles, cantorship, professional Jewish leadership, and Jewish studies. In addition to their degree studies, participants delve into topics related to leadership and Jewish communities in the United States and receive personal guidance and mentoring.


The Wexner Israel Fellowship Program was established in 1989. This program is a joint initiative of the Wexner Foundation and Harvard University in the United States. Within this program, fellows pursue a second degree in public administration at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The vision of the program is "to provide the next generation of Israeli public leaders with training in public administration and leadership development to enhance the quality of Israeli democracy and public institutions."

The admissions committee for the Israeli fellows' program, which includes a representative from the Civil Service Commission, selects up to ten Israeli public administration professionals each year. Upon completion of the program, participants are awarded a master's degree in public administration (MC-MPA) from Harvard University.

Graduates commit to working in the public sector in Israel for a period of three years, with many of them staying on for longer. As of 2018, the community of graduates numbered around 300 individuals. Most of them work in government offices, the security system, the public healthcare system, governmental corporations, and municipal governments.

Some program graduates work in the third sector and local authorities. The inclusion of government employees in the program is encouraged and requires approval from the Civil Service Commission. In 2018, the thirtieth cycle of the program was completed.

In 2013, the foundation launched the Senior Leadership Program, designed for senior officials in the Israeli public service, equivalent to the rank of Deputy Director-General in government ministries or senior ranks in security agencies.

The program spans one year and includes a month of advanced studies at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The training promotes cooperation between public organizations.

Approximately forty individuals participate in the program each year. The inclusion of government employees in the program is encouraged and requires approval from the Civil Service Commission.

Notable alumni of the Wexner Foundation programs in Israel include Uzi Fogelman, Aviv Kochavi, Yair Golan, Shai Avital, Noam Tivon, Amos Yadlin, Uri Gur, and others who have excelled in various fields, such as law, the military, education, and healthcare.

The foundation also established the Wexner Alumni Association in 1999, which was dissolved in 2019.

Critics from the political right argue that the foundation has a progressive agenda, and that its agenda, along with the studies at Harvard University, ideologically influences participants who are part of the Israeli public service.

They also claim that the foundation's interaction with the Civil Service Commission goes against standard management principles. In a discussion held in July 2020 by the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, the Director-General of the Prime Minister's Office stated that until collaboration with non-governmental organizations in such programs is regulated, the participation of government employees in the program would be suspended.

A petition to the Supreme Court against the alumni and senior leadership programs was filed by the organization "Im Tirtzu" and was rejected with a "if you wish" costs order.

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