According to Dr. Philip Weinerman’s nomination form, “Philip has directed his efforts to improve the Columbus Jewish community and make it a more welcoming place for observant families.”
The nominator described his helping with the founding of three local institutions: the Columbus Eruv Society, the Columbus Torah Academy high school and the Columbus Community Kollel, as well as a range of community service endeavors with local Jewish organizations.
What inspires you to give back to the community?
Julia and I want a Jewish community in which our children, grandchildren and friends can grow and thrive. We want them to be proud, knowledgeable Jews who are happy to live in Columbus, and be part of a dynamic Jewish community.
We want a community that takes care of the spiritual, social and physical needs of everyone. This has led me to volunteer and contribute to many different Jewish organizations over the past 35 years.
Was there ever a turning point or shift that made you change how you approach community service or become active in the Jewish world?
Over 35 years ago, my friends and I asked what would be needed for Columbus Jewish life to flourish. Some of the items on our wish list included an eruv, a Jewish day school high school, a kollel and a kosher restaurant. We realized that actualizing these institutions required much planning, cooperation and hard work.
My friend Debbie Cohen was the first Eruv president. She was going to Israel for a sabbatical and said, “Phil, you are the new Eruv president, and I would like to see it built before I return in a year.” Working with the community rabbis and volunteers, we finished the planning and fundraising, overcame many technical, halachic and permit issues, and built the eruv. I learned a lot about how to do effective community work.
Starting the CTA high school and later the kollel each involved a small group of dedicated lay leaders, donors, teachers and rabbis to develop and then actualize the plans. Kosher restaurants are still on the wish list.
Who are your mentors and how have they impacted you?
I was very fortunate to have mentors both older than me and in my generation. I worked with them on many projects and tried to learn from each one. An example of an older mentor was Irving Baker, z”l, who I spoke with frequently. He worked for many organizations, including decades of work for CTA and Ahavas Sholom. He was honest, direct and passionate about improving the Jewish community. Many of the peers I have worked with over the past 35 years are still my friends. I learned how to respect people with divergent views, how to work together and how to collaborate to get projects done.
What’s one takeaway you have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic?
The takeaway I learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that collaboration made each institution’s decisions better. JewishColumbus provided leadership for multiple institutions to work together for safe health policies and financial support. Multiple synagogues worked jointly to develop safe practices.