by Whitney Webb at
The Origins of the Wexner Foundation
It is hard to know exactly when the Wexner Foundation was originally created. The official website for the foundation states clearly in one section that the Wexner Foundation was first set up in 1983 alongside the Wexner Heritage Foundation. However, the 2001 obituary of Wexner’s mother, Bella, states that she and her son created the foundation together in 1973. Regardless of the exact year, Wexner’s mother, Bella, became the secretary of the foundation (just as she had with his company The Limited), which Wexner wanted people to refer to as a “joint philanthropy.”
The foundation’s website states that the original purpose of the Wexner Foundation was to assist “emerging professional Jewish leaders in North America and mid-career public officials in Israel.” Per the website, Wexner’s main philanthropic endeavors were created after Wexner “reached the conclusion that what the Jewish people needed most at that moment was stronger leadership.” As a result, Wexner sought to focus his foundation’s attention chiefly on the “development of leaders.” As a consequence of this, Wexner’s programs have molded the minds and opinions of prominent North American, as well as Israeli, Jewish leaders who went on to work at the top levels of finance, government and, even, intelligence.
One of the Wexner Foundation’s original advisors, and perhaps one of the most important, was Robert Hiller, who had previously been executive vice president of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds. Robert I. Hiller was described in an article in The Baltimore Sun as a “nonprofit leader who helped develop community fundraising strategies and was active in the Soviet Jewry movement.”
As well as being known as a community development leader, Hiller was also an executive with Community Chest of Metropolitan Detroit in 1948. In that position, Hiller helped bring together corporations such as General Motors to create “social service groups under an umbrella organization, a precursor to collective fundraising efforts today.” In 1950, Hiller became the associate director of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland and six years later he also joined the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh. He would spend another nine years in that position before his move to Baltimore.
In his autobiography, Hiller wrote about his extensive dealings with…Continue Reading