Difference Makers Columbus twitter card .jpg

In the nearly one year since we launched the Columbus Jewish News, deadly attacks were carried out on Jewish communities in Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif.

In the wake of those unspeakable tragedies, leaders emerged – not only in those western Pennsylvania and Southern California cities but in communities across the country, where synagogues, temples and Jewish institutions have been tasked with navigating new realities.

While the community here in Central Ohio fortunately hasn’t faced the most heinous of tests, the region has long fostered the kind of leadership needed to confront such atrocities. And cut from that same cloth of leadership are those who step up to better our community on a day-to-day basis, in perhaps less noticeable yet no less important ways.

Proof is all around us. It’s my privilege and honor to be in a position to help highlight leaders among us who embody tikkun olam, or striving to repair the world, in the CJN’s inaugural class of 18 Difference Makers.

We received an abundance of community nominations, from which we selected 18 – or chai – individuals who we feel are making a difference.

The 2019 class of 18 Difference Makers recognizes a diverse array of leaders – from business heads to nonprofit executives to rabbis to retirees, all of whom give back to their community in a wealth of ways. Among the Difference Makers are those who lead in providing support to area Holocaust survivors, ensuring assistance and recognition for Jewish war veterans, and aiding immigrants and refugees as they establish homes locally. Some harness their professional skills to improve and assist local Jewish agencies, while others have led passion projects completely outside their career field. The Difference Makers — who range in age from 20 to 90 — volunteer through both Jewish and secular organizations and have stepped up to lead the way.

2019 Class of 18 Difference Makers

Place of Employment
Bonnie AbramowitzExecutive Director
Temple Beth Shalom
Richard BarnettBroker/Owner; President
RE/MAX Main Street;
National Land Advisory Group
Emily CammeyerStudent
Ohio Wesleyan University
Cantor Jack ChomskyCantor
Congregation Tifereth Israel
Carol FolkerthFormer Director
Jewish Community Center of
Greater Columbus
June K. Gutterman Ed.D.Former CEO
Jewish Family Services
Rabbi Richard M.C. KellnerRabbi
Congregation Beth Tikvah
Meri KingCoordinator, Project ARIEL
Jewish Family Services
Amy KlabenProject Facilitator; Principal
Move to PROSPER;
Strategic Opportunities
Saul LaubRetired 
Rabbi Debbie LeftonSenior Rabbi & Director of Spiritual Care
Wexner Heritage Village
David M. NeubauerAttorney 
Cheryl RosePrincipal
The CM+R Group
Pam Scheer
Community Volunteer
Michael L. SchottensteinAttorney
Kegler Brown Hill + Ritter
Jerry SigalPersonal Banker IIFifth Third Bank
Inna SimakovskyAttorneySimakovsky Law
Michael WeiszEmeritus CEO
The Smith Tandy Group

If that’s not impressive enough, we’ll also recognize the long-term achievement of two other community members.

The CJN Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Jackie L. Jacobs, executive director emeritus of the Columbus Jewish Foundation and consultant at JewishColumbus, for his leadership in the community over decades, both in an official capacity as well as behind the scenes. Although he retired from the foundation last year, he continues to contribute and offer wisdom and guidance to a new crop of leaders.

The CJN Legacy Award recognizes a late community member who over the course of her life worked to repair the world and lead the Central Ohio Jewish community: Joyce Garver Keller. Formerly executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities, Keller was a longtime advocate for the Jewish community throughout Ohio and beyond, in addition to being a well-known mentor who paved the way for others to make a difference. She passed away May 2, 2016 at age 68, less than a year after retiring.

In the future, the Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented annually while the Legacy Award will be presented on occasion.

Mark your calendars and be sure to join us as we celebrate the honorees at 7 p.m. Sept. 19 at The Vault in downtown Columbus. By attending, you’ll get an up-close look at the tradition of strong leadership in Central Ohio’s Jewish community.

The supporting sponsor for 18 Difference Makers is Wexner Heritage Village.

The Difference Makers will also be featured in a special commemorative section in the Sept. 19 issue of the CJN as well as on columbusjewishnews.com.

Whether in their congregation, at their workplace or in their neighborhood, and whether through volunteerism, philanthropy, advocacy or sheer hard work, these individuals’ achievements and service lift up those around them and serve to further our community. Please join us on Sept. 19, as we honor these 18 Difference Makers, Jackie L. Jacobs and the legacy of Joyce Garver Keller.

Kevin S. Adelstein is Publisher and CEO of the Columbus Jewish News.