Tikkun olam, social justice and creating better opportunities for one another are long-held values within Central Ohio’s Jewish community.
For that reason, the Columbus Jewish News honored 20 people for their change-making efforts locally at its first 18 Difference Makers ceremony Sept. 19.
About 250 attended the dessert reception at The Vault in downtown Columbus, where in addition to the 18 Difference Makers, two more awards were presented. Jackie L. Jacobs, executive director emeritus at the Columbus Jewish Foundation and consultant at JewishColumbus, received the first Lifetime Achievement Award. The late Joyce Garver Keller, former executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities, was bestowed the Legacy Award, accepted by her widow, Steven Keller, and son, Stuart Keller.
Kevin S. Adelstein, publisher and CEO of the Columbus Jewish News and president of the Columbus Jewish Publication Company, told the crowd of the careful process for selecting the Difference Makers and the impressive tikkun olam efforts encompassed in the nominations submitted by community members.
“While the selection process was challenging, it was the right kind of challenge,” Adelstein said. “It attested to the depth of Central Ohio’s Jewish community, and to the investment these Difference Makers make in that community. The Difference Makers who gather with us tonight represent the first round of the best of the Jewish community of Central Ohio. It’s been an honor and a pleasure for the Columbus Jewish News to recognize these special individuals.”
Accepting the award, Jacobs said his parents’ stories of surviving the Holocaust and the idea of being “powerless” inspired him to dedicate his life to Jewish community advocacy.
“In my job, I was given the opportunity to help organize the Jewish community to do better, to avoid the nightmares of the past – to survive as Jews, by our own code of ethical conduct, on our own terms, with a moral imperative to pursue justice, to speak truth to power,” Jacobs said. “For such an opportunity, I am grateful beyond words.”
JewishColumbus CEO Joel Marcovitch spoke about Keller’s efforts to ensure all Jewish communities in Ohio stayed strong. He said soon after he became the youngest CEO of a federation in the country at the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo, he traveled to Columbus for his first OJC meeting. Keller offered him early words of encouragement.
“She said, ‘You’ll be just fine.’ And that was Joyce,” Marcovitch said.
While accepting the award, Steven Keller and Stuart Keller said Joyce epitomized one who loved her work.
“That’s why Joyce did what she did and why she was as successful as she was,” Stuart Keller said.
David R. Hertz II, Columbus Jewish Publication Company board chair, discussed the CJN’s efforts to ensure Central Ohio has a thriving Jewish newspaper at a time when local newspapers face unprecedented challenges, and how the community has welcomed the newspaper in its first year.
“It is important that we support the newspapers in our midst, that we celebrate the Jewish culture in our cities at a time when hate is increasingly prevalent and expressed sometimes with deadly consequences,” he said. “At a time when Jewish communities across the country are forced to worry about their own security, at a time when newspapers across the country are operating under duress, you have embraced the Columbus Jewish News and helped us embrace your community.”
Rabbi Howard Zack of Congregation Torat Emet in Bexley delivered the invocation, speaking of the upcoming High Holy Days and how they present an opportunity to reflect on the past year. While many think about regrets and what they could do better in the future, the Difference Makers present an example of what has been done right, he said.
“Tonight we are shining a light on 20 individuals who represent the best of our community,” he said. “We are celebrating successful Jewish role models.”
The 2019 class of 18 Difference Makers was comprised of: Bonnie Abramowitz, Richard Barnett, Emily Cammeyer, Cantor Jack Chomsky, Carol Folkerth, June K. Gutterman Ed.D., Rabbi Richard M.C. Kellner, Meri King, Amy Klaben, Saul Laub, Rabbi Debbie Lefton, David M. Neubauer, Cheryl Rose, Pam Scheer, Michael L. Schottenstein, Jerry Sigal, Inna Simakovsky and Michael J. Weisz.