Prestigious National Jewish Leadership Program Kicks Off on Avon Mountain

Many of our top communal leaders share a common bond: they’re graduates of the Wexner Heritage Program a prestigious, national, two-year educational experience that seeks to expand the vision of Jewish volunteer leaders, deepen their Jewish knowledge and confidence, and inspire them to exercise transformative leadership. This summer, a new cohort of outstanding Jewish lay leaders from Greater Hartford, Western Massachusetts, and New Haven came together to begin the program, supported by joint funding from local Federations and community foundations and past Wexner graduates. Below, Gayle Temkin, a West Hartford resident and Wexner Heritage alumna, offers a closer look. The current chair of the Jewish Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees and a past chair of the Mandell JCC’s Board of Directors, Gayle is serving as a mentor for the 2021 cohort and hosted their New Member Institute earlier this month.

How lucky we are to have the Wexner Heritage Program back in our community as we welcome New England 2021! The program brought back countless meaningful memories of my New Member Institute as a member of the New England 2014 cohort. While I had already begun my Jewish leadership journey prior to being selected as a Wexner member, there is no question that the program played a pivotal role in guiding me to become the leader I am today. 

The Wexner staff reached out to New England alumni and our local Jewish community foundations and Federations to gauge interest in forming a new cohort for the region. Fortunately, we were all on the same page — and we opted to split the program costs equally between The Wexner Foundation, our local foundations and Federations, and Wexner alumni as a joint investment in the Jewish community’s future leadership, with no cost to current members. 

The Wexner Foundation solicited nominations from alumni and top professional and lay leaders representing a cross-section of the Jewish community. Nominees, who are typically between the ages of 30 and 45, were then invited to apply. Finalists were selected and interviewed by a panel comprised of Wexner Foundation staff and Wexner Heritage alumni; I was deeply honored to be included in the panel. Following the interviews, we selected the final group of 20 members.

Due to the pandemic, the start date was pushed back a year — and New England ’20 became New England ’21. I will always cherish the memories my New England ’14 cohort made at our New Member Institute in Aspen, Colorado — along with groups from Denver and San Francisco. It was an opportunity to connect with one another and to develop deep relations with peers from our own community and across the Jewish world. We learned side-by-side, forming lifetime friendships and bonds with others on this shared incredible leadership journey.

As the summer 2021 New Member Institute date approached and the ongoing pandemic made travel more problematic, the Wexner professional staff decided to come to us. I was pleased to host a socially distanced New Member Institute in my backyard on August 1 and 2, including a reception with community leaders and Wexner alumni from Greater Hartford, Western Massachusetts, and New Haven. Over two days, we enjoyed delicious catered food from the Crown Market, strengthened old connections, and made new ones.

In summary, I feel extremely blessed to have spent quality time with this amazing group of individuals. It was an honor to watch the members of New England ’21 begin their journey. 

Just as members of my cohort had bonded together in the Rocky Mountains, the New England ’21 cohort bonded together on Avon Mountain. It’s no exaggeration to say we all experienced the wonders of this amazing leadership opportunity — be it in Aspen or in “Temkinville.” – Gayle Temkin, Chair, Jewish Community Foundation Board of Trustees

Wexner Heritage Program New England 2021 Cohort

  • Sarah Aroeste Blaugrund
  • Chaim Davis
  • Adam Deutsch
  • Lauren Eisen
  • Joshua Feldman
  • Gerry Garcia
  • Vlad Katsovich
  • Julie Katz
  • Jason Kay
  • David Kieval
  • Elyse Krantz
  • Rachel G. Leventhal-Weiner
  • Benjamin Lewis
  • Heather Lieber
  • Merrill Mandell
  • Sami Merit
  • David Ochs
  • Frank Roberts
  • Betsy Schulman
  • Chaim Abba Vail

Photo caption: Members of the New England 2021 cohort of the Wexner Heritage Program attend a New Member Institute in Gayle Temkin's backyard on August 1. Image courtesy of Wexner Heritage Program.