“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” –African Proverb
It was November of 2012 when, while on a business trip in Boston, I received a call from my good friend Michelle. The Wexner Foundation, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, was bringing the Wexner Heritage Program to Dallas for the first time and, Congregation Anshai Torah, of which Michelle was President, at the time, had decided to nominate me to be part of this inaugural class. I was honored, yet I had no idea what all of this really meant or what to expect.
After going through the application and interview process, I was thrilled to learn, while on another business trip, this time in Mexico City, that, along with my good friends Michelle (yes, the same one), Seth, Mahra, Jason and Zeev, as well as my, soon to become, close friends Lindsay, Staci, Jay, Stefani, Andy, the two Mikes, Dawn, Sue, Benjamin, Cheryl, Julie, Melanie and Marc, I had been selected to be part of the “Dallas 13,” Wexner Heritage Program Cohort! My two year Wexner journey began on a warm and beautiful summer day in Snowbird, Utah in August 2013.
Focused on developing community leaders based on Jewish learning, the Wexner Heritage Program has not only taught me about Jewish history and identity, but also exposed me to some of the greatest people in my community.
The Wexner experience has made me a better leader, not only because of the substantive content of the course but, more importantly, because of the deep bonds of commonality of purpose and desires that came about from our collective interactions as a group. Our diversity of background and interests made our journey enriching, enlightening and, at times, challenging and frustrating.
From Erica to Arna to Ed to Maya to Josh to Liora, to Michael to Jay and Ben and Elka, to David to Noa to Darren to Don to Tali. Our faculty was diverse, at times controversial, but, always, engaging, fascinating and enriching. The lessons I took from Wexner were more than academic, they were deeply personal and of individual meaning.
Whether reaffirming my faith in HaShem or challenging my notions about community challenges, the debates we experienced will forever mark my leadership course in life and bring into clearer focus the issues I wish to tackle.
Two years of learning, debating, laughing and, at times, crying. Two years of frustration, impatience with each other and disagreement. Two years of developing lifelong friendships and bonds. Two years of creating memories. Our Wexner journey may have only lasted two years, but our gratitude will last forever.
I will carry eternal gratitude to my fellow members, our faculty and staff for sharing the journey. Eternal gratitude to the members of my community that stood up, when asked, and made this experience a reality for us. Eternal gratitude to the Dallas Jewish Community Center and its staff for providing us with a home to learn. Eternal gratitude to our families for supporting us and sharing this experience with us and, of course, eternal gratitude to HaShem for allowing us to see through this adventure and, of course, forever gratitude towards Leslie and Abigail Wexner for making Jewish leadership their enduring legacy to the world.
Leslie and Abigail Wexner are modern heroes of the Jewish people and for that, they are, and must forever continue to be, celebrated and appreciated, not only by those of us that have been graced by their generosity, but by the millions of Jews in North America and Israel that have been touched by the teachings they have inspired.
As I complete my Wexner journey, I am still unclear as to exactly where my Jewish leadership path will lead, however, I am certain of one thing, I will not be alone in that journey and along with the 19 wonderful people I’ve traveled with the last two years, we as Jews, will get very far in ensuring a meaningful legacy for our children, grandchildren and community.
Barukh ata HaShem, Elokeinu, melekh ha’olam, she’heheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higi’anu la’z’man ha’ze (Blessed are You, Lord our G_d, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season).