The Jewish philanthropy founded by retail billionaire Les Wexner has severed ties with Harvard.
The Wexner Foundation accused Harvard of a “dismal failure” to condemn the Hamas attacks last week.
Other wealthy alumni and donors have criticized elite schools for inadequate support for Israel.
Les Wexner, the billionaire retailer and founder of Victoria’s Secret, is the latest to pull funding from an elite school in the wake of the attacks last week.
The Wexner Foundation, the Jewish leadership philanthropy founded by the retailer, has severed ties with Harvard, citing the university’s response last week to the attacks by Hamas in Israel. The move comes as investors, CEOs, and donors have called on Ivy League schools to be more vocal in standing with Israel and condemning anti-Semitism.
“Harvard’s leaders were indeed tiptoeing, equivocating,” said the statement posted on X, signed by Leslie and Abigail Wexner, as well as Wexner Foundation president Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson and director general for Israel, Ra’anan Avital.
A foundation representative confirmed the statement’s authenticity to Insider.
“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. Our core values and those of Harvard no longer align,” the statement said.
Beyond the developments of last week, the statement indicated that the Kennedy School of Government’s tolerance of diverse perspectives had diminished “slowly but perceptibly” in recent years, and that Wexner fellows experienced their “voices and views even shouted down.”
“Many of our Israel Fellows no longer feel marginalized at HKS. They feel abandoned,” the statement said. The foundation supports a fellowship for government and public service professionals from Israel who pursue a one-year degree from the Harvard Kennedy School.
The Kennedy School did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on this story.
Wexner built his fortune as the founder of companies including Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. He launched The Wexner Foundation in 1983 with the goal of “strengthening leadership for the Jewish people,” according to the foundation’s website.
The mogul stepped down from the leadership at the retail brands following revelations that he was “close personal friends” with Jeffrey Epstein, who was convicted of sexual assault. A spokesperson for Wexner said in 2019 that the businessman had cut ties with Epstein years before.
Monday’s announcement ends a partnership that spanned more than three decades and provided management and leadership training for Israeli government workers at the Ivy League public affairs school.
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