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The relationship between Jeffrey Epstein and Jewish philanthropist Leslie Wexner, explained

"The relationship between Jeffrey Epstein and Jewish philanthropist Leslie Wexner, explained" by Ben Sales in J.T.A. Aug 13, 2019 
Leslie Wexner/ Jeffrey Epstein (Laura Adkins/Getty Images)

One of the most befuddling questions surrounding the Jeffrey Epstein saga is why Leslie Wexner, a billionaire entrepreneur, entrusted all of his money to Epstein, a secretive financier with no college degree. 

Since the Epstein sex scandal resurfaced this year, these questions have dogged Wexner, the owner of Victoria’s Secret who at one point was Epstein’s only known financial client. Wexner was very close with Epstein and trusted him as a money manager and legal representative. 

Epstein was found hanged in his jail cell on Saturday in what officials are calling a suicide. 

As the scandal has unfolded, Wexner and his associates have put out a series of statements on Epstein and their relationship. His connection with Epstein has also led to stormy discussions among the recipients of his largesse about the ethical dilemmas they face.

How much has Leslie Wexner given to Jewish causes? Plenty. The Wexner Foundation is among the most prominent private Jewish charities in the world. In 2017, according to tax documents, it gave $3.6 million in charity, much (but not all) of it to Jewish educational causes, as well as more money for educational programs. The foundation is best known in the Jewish world for its graduate fellowship, which awards scholarships to 20 promising graduate students in Jewish fields, including rabbinical school, cantorial school, Jewish educational school or another degree program. More than 1,800 people have participated in its program aimed at providing volunteer board leadership with lessons in Jewish history, thought, texts and contemporary issues. The foundation runs a variety of other programs, including training for Israeli public officials. 

Here’s a primer on how the two became so close, and why their relationship poses a dilemma for many in the Jewish community.