The Wexner Foundation ended its financial ties with Harvard University over “the dismal failure of Harvard’s leadership to take a clear and unequivocal stand against the barbaric murders of innocent Israeli civilians by terrorists,” after Hamas attacked Israelis on Oct. 7.
More than 250 Israelis have graduated as Wexner Foundation Fellows over the years. The Fellowship includes studying at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Many of the Wexner Fellowship graduates have gone on to high-ranking positions in the Israeli government as members of the Israeli Knesset, Israel Defense Forces, and state prosecutors.
The Wexner Foundation sent a letter to Harvard Board of Overseers telling them that many Israel fellows “feel abandoned” by the university.
It was signed by the Ohio-based Wexner Foundation’s president, Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson, Director General in Israel Ra’anan Avital and foundation chairs Abigail and Leslie Wexner.
The Wexners are “those” Wexners connected to the late Tier 3 registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who also caused a fallout at Harvard for making donations of millions of dollars to Harvard.
The Wexner Foundation leaders urged Harvard’s administration to express support for Israel and unequivocally condemn Hamas as a number of other universities have done.
“Other university presidents have said precisely what we should have heard immediately from President [Claudine] Gay,” the letter reads, citing former U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, who is now the President of the University of Florida.
“What Hamas did was evil and there is no defense for terrorism. This shouldn’t be hard,” stated Sasse.
“In the absence of this clear moral stand, we have determined that the Harvard Kennedy School and The Wexner Foundation are no longer compatible partners,” the foundation leaders wrote. “Our core values and those of Harvard no longer align. HKS is no longer a place where Israeli leaders can go to develop the necessary skills to address the very real political and societal challenges they face.”
The foundation added that it would still work toward its overall mission of “[developing] new strategies and initiatives to develop Israel’s civil service leaders,” but that it is “formally ending its financial and programmatic relationships with Harvard and the Harvard Kennedy School.”
The controversy arose after Harvard’s response to a letter signed by 31 Harvard student organizations published on social media in the aftermath of the Hamas Oct. 7 attack. In their letter, the students' organizations claimed Israel is “entirely responsible” for Hamas terrorists’ murder of 1,400 Israelis.
Harvard’s President Claudine Gay and other university leaders said days later in a statement that the school was “heartbroken by the death and destruction unleashed by the attack by Hamas.” Gay and Harvard's leadership neither mentioned the students’ letter nor condemned it.
Harvard alums from lawyer Alan Dershowitz to former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to Congressman Ritchie Torres of New York, viscerally have called on Harvard to show solidarity with Israel in their October 10 letter.
“The statement signed by the Palestine Solidarity Committee and dozens of other student groups blaming Israel for the aforementioned attacks is completely wrong and deeply offensive. There are no justifications for acts of terror we have seen in the past days. We call on all the student groups who co-signed the statement to retract their signatures from the offensive letter,” reads the alumni letter.
Yossi Sagol, chairman of Sagol Holdings Corporation and a 2008 Harvard Business School alum, threatened to pull funding if Harvard doesn’t change course.
Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer and his wife, Batia, have announced they are quitting Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government executive board in protest over how university leaders responded to the massacre.
Immediately after Harvard released its statement, Congressman Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), posted on X, “Harvard’s leadership has failed. The president and deans refuse to denounce the antisemitism of Harvard student groups. Instead of moral clarity and courage, they offer [a] word salad approved by committee. I am ashamed of my alma mater.”
Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA) wrote on X, “Terrorism is never justified nor someone else’s fault. As hundreds of Israelis and others, including several Americans, remain kidnapped, injured, or dead, the 31 Harvard organizations that signed a letter holding Israel ‘entirely responsible’ for Hamas’ barbarous terrorism should be condemned, as should Harvard leadership for whom silence is complicity.” Moulton added, “I cannot recall a moment when I’ve been more embarrassed by my alma mater.”
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