$2.7 million Initiative Launched to Promote Leadership in Russian-Jewish Community

Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), a foundation dedicated to promoting Jewish identity for Russian-speaking Jews worldwide, and The Wexner Foundation, whose primary focus since its inception in 1984 has been strengthening Jewish leadership, have entered a $2.7 million partnership that will focus upon intensive leadership development for Russian-speaking Jews in North America.

The joint initiative will focus on two key areas – Jewish lay leadership and Jewish professional development:

  • The Wexner Foundation will create two Wexner Heritage classes comprised of Jews from the Russian-speaking community in the New York area, in cooperation with UJA Federation of New York. The two cohorts will begin a customized Wexner Heritage Program at a week-long learning institute to be held in the summer of 2010. Russian-speaking Jews will also be actively recruited to participate in Wexner Heritage groups being run in other communities.
  • The Wexner Graduate Fellowship/Davidson Scholar Program for emerging Jewish professionals will add to its roster of exceptional graduate school students. Two candidates from the Russian-speaking Jewish community preparing for careers in Jewish professional life will be named Genesis Fellows in the Fellowship class selected one year from now in anticipation of starting their graduate programs in fall 2010. Another set of Genesis Fellows is anticipated in the 2011 class.

“While the Russian-speaking community in North America has achieved much professional success, these talents remain largely outside of the organized Jewish community”, said Stan Polovets, CEO and one of the five founders of GPG. “We are pleased that through this partnership, the exceptional expertise in Jewish leadership that The Wexner Foundation has developed will meet the unique experiences of Russian-speaking Jews to create a new cadre of committed and engaged Russian-speaking Jewish leaders.”

The Wexner Foundation is eager to focus energy upon customizing leadership initiatives designed for Russian-speaking Jews. Larry Moses, President of The Wexner Foundation, commented, “We regard this work as particularly significant, perhaps historic. It provides a rare opportunity to engage the talents and energize the leadership of Russian-speaking Jews, an important segment of North American Jewish life previously under-represented in mainstream Jewish organizational life – much to the community’s detriment. Leslie and Abigail Wexner, Chairmen of The Wexner Foundation, have expressed strong support for this project from its earliest stages.”

Leadership development is seen as the key to succeeding in transforming Jewish life for Russian speaking Jews in America. In camps, schools, JCCs and a range of other venues there is a need for strong professional and volunteer leadership that can represent the views of the Russian speaking community. “When Genesis began its work in North America we all realized that we needed well placed, well trained leaders who could make sure the Russian perspective was included. This is critical to making sure that the Russian Jewish community is well served but it’s equally critical to ensure that the richness of Russian culture informs the development of Jewish life in North America,” said Mark Charendoff, President of the Jewish Funders Network, which works with GPG on its grant making in North America. “We believe that this partnership will create the environment that allows the rest of GPG’s grantmaking to flourish.”

“This is an exciting and important new partnership to strengthen the Jewish future. The Wexner Heritage program has nurtured a new generation of American Jewish lay leaders who have created new institutions and contributed to the enrichment of Jewish life,” commented Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, who sits on the GPG Advisory Board and has been involved with the Wexner Foundation for many years. “We believe that the Wexner program can make the same contribution to elevate the Russian speaking Jewish community and draw it close to all of American Jewry”.

In addition to the $2.7 million grant to The Wexner Foundation, Genesis Philanthropy Group has allocated an additional $2.1 million for leadership development and is making the following one-year (renewable) grants to support and grow leadership among the Russian-speaking Jewish community:

  • $150,000 to Jewish Immigrant Aid Society (JIAS), Canada to support their Decades-Plus Leadership Development Program for Russian-speaking Jewish immigrants;
  • $150,000 to Moishe House to open three houses in North America for Russian-speaking Jewish young adults;
  • $285,000 to the Center for Leadership Initiatives (CLI) to devise and host leadership development gatherings specifically for Russian-speaking professionals in the Jewish community and for Russian-speaking young adults.

In all, Genesis will provide $4.8 million to multiple organizations for leadership development programs.