In more than 35 years working at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus, Carol Folkerth ensured making a difference was part of both the organization’s and her own mission. Jewish values such as tzedek, kindness and continuing education enriched her life and inspired her to share them with others. After retiring at the end of June, Folkerth’s background and interests continue to propel her toward change-making, including helping find homes for rescued dogs.

Was there ever a turning point or shift that made you change how you approach community service or become active in the Jewish world?

After graduating with a master’s degree in Jewish history from The Ohio State University, I worked for several years at the Melton Center on campus. And while I loved working there, it was in some ways the ivory tower. Once recruited to join the JCC professional team, I experienced in action, every day, what the breadth and depth of Jewish community really is. That change helped me grow as a professional, as a community member and to personally continue to learn Jewishly.

How did your Jewish background inform your interest in giving back?

As a graduate of University School, run by OSU’s department of education, I grew up with kids from very diverse backgrounds: geographically, religiously, economically, socially and ethnically diverse. For sure this impacted my early desire to be a positive force for change in our world, and drove my desire to give back and be part of our Jewish community.

Did you have any mentors? If so, what was your relationship to them and how did they impact you?

I have been extremely fortunate to have many mentors. Just to mention a few:

Florence Zacks Melton taught me adults have a craving to learn about Jewish life. And it is never “just another day at the office.”

Larry Moses mentored me on the big picture of leadership in the Jewish community; its importance, relevance and what really matters.

Several rabbis at the Columbus Community Kollel have shown me Jewish learning is personally rewarding for its own sake, but also has insights in so many ways to make me a better person.

Abe Weinrib, friend and mentor, taught me that no matter what you may experience in life, what you may have to endure, in the end we should “be nice to each other.”

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the Central Ohio Jewish community? What should be done to promote change?

Unfortunately, during the past couple of years, the safety and security of our community has presented itself as a significant challenge. At our JCC, as with many across the country and with other Jewish agencies, we have had to lock our doors. Of course this is understandable as the safety and security of our members, staff and guests is of utmost importance. But the message of a locked door is a sad and a scary one. It is not a message of openness and welcoming that we strive hard to present.

I believe our challenge as a Jewish community is to focus our mission, our work and our message on what the community stands for. Not who/what stands against us. We need to celebrate the joy in being Jewish today and to welcome and appreciate those who are not Jewish, but stand beside us. This will reflect the true value and purpose of a Jewish community.

The 2019 Class of 18 Difference Makers

For Richard Barnett, a driving force has been trying to make the Jewish community more inclusive, as it relates to religious, income or other …

For Emily Cammeyer, an experience helping her great-grandmother at the end of her life led Cammeyer to find a way to make a difference for oth…

In more than 35 years working at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus, Carol Folkerth ensured making a difference was part of both …

Connecting with others in the community while serving it is one factor that inspires Meri King to continue to give back. As coordinator of Pro…

Amy Klaben’s interest in promoting equality for minorities and women began as a teenager, when she realized the power and persistence of socie…

For Saul Laub, it’s simple: tasks to better the community need to be completed and someone – who might as well be him – needs to do it. His le…

Giving back for Cheryl Rose means finding ways to use unique personal strengths and experiences for the betterment of others. Among many servi…

For Pam Scheer, giving back is a way to provide a good example, while also lending a hand and engaging in personal interests. Scheer has long …

After growing up in an Orthodox synagogue and becoming involved with Congregation Tifereth Israel as an adult, Jerry Sigal realized the import…

Coming to the United States from the former Soviet Union as a child refugee, Inna Simakovsky has channeled her experience into helping others …

Michael J. Weisz’s interest in giving back stems from the idea that the United States was built on a bedrock of religious heritage and hard wo…