Tag Archives: Hillel

Jew of the Week: Anne Heyman

Mother of Rwanda’s Orphans

Anne Heyman with Rwandan President Paul Kagame

Anne Heyman with Rwandan President Paul Kagame

Anne Elaine Heyman (1961-2014) was born in South Africa and moved to the US with her family when she was 15. After doing a year of high school in Israel, she studied at the University of Pennsylvania, and then got a law degree from Columbia University. She was soon Manhattan’s assistant district attorney, focusing on fighting white-collar crime. In 1994, she began devoting her time to philanthropic causes, first volunteering with an organization that assists the elderly, as well as Hillel, Young Judea, and the Jewish Community Centers of America. In 2005, she learned that the Rwandan genocide left over a million orphans. Inspired to make a change, she realized she could apply the same model that Israel used in caring for orphans following the Holocaust. Heyman raised $12 million and convinced the Rwandan government to give her 144 acres of land on which she built a village for orphans (called Agahozo-Shalom). To power the village, Heyman built a solar plant – one of the largest in sub-Saharan Africa – which provides electricity for the rest of Rwanda as well. To help her, she brought in Israeli Ethiopian Jews to serve as councilors and teachers. The orphans, some of whom didn’t even know their names, were given a home, an education, a trade, and a new family. They affectionately called Heyman “Mom”, “Grandmother”, and “Angel”. Over 500 teenagers continue to live and prosper in Heyman’s village today. Sadly, Heyman passed away a year ago in a tragic horse-riding accident. Her husband and children are continuing her important work.

Words of the Week

I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world… as a marvelous example of what can be done… how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy.
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jew of the Week: Les Wexner

Les Wexner

Les Wexner

Leslie H. Wexner (b. 1937) was born in Ohio to Russian-Jewish immigrants. He dropped out of law school to help his parents, who opened a small clothing shop after struggling for many years in low-level jobs in the garment industry. At 26, he loaned $5000 and opened his own sportswear store for young women, called ‘The Limited’. The store was a hit, pulling in $160,000 in sales in its first year. Just 6 years later, the company went public. Wexner has been its CEO since then, making him the all time longest-serving CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Over that time, he has taken his company to new heights, starting a number of new businesses, and acquiring others, including Victoria’s Secret, La Senza, Pink, Bath & Body Works, and Abercrombie & Fitch. He now oversees 3000 locations around the world, and his net worth is estimated at around $6 billion. A sizable portion of this wealth goes to charitable causes. Wexner has donated millions to the United Way, Hillel, Birthright, and Ohio State University. He has given over $160 million to the Columbus Foundation, and pledged $100 million for medical and cancer research. His own Wexner Foundation provides funding for Jewish leadership programs, master’s degrees in rabbinics and Jewish studies, Jewish day schools in the US and universities in Israel, as well as sponsoring Israelis studying at Harvard. For his extensive philanthropic work and business acumen, Wexner has won numerous awards and honourary degrees.

Shavuot Begins Tonight!

Words of the Week

Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.
– Friedrich Nietzsche