18 Difference Makers 2020

Last year when the Columbus Jewish News introduced its 18 Difference Makers awards in Central Ohio, we knew tikkun olam and creating better opportunities for one another were long-held values in the local Jewish community.

We knew there was no shortage of individuals doing their part – and more – to improve life for those around them and strengthen Jewish communal ties.

Today, the world is a vastly different place than it was a year ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unimaginable loss that has no end in sight.

Among so many changes to daily life, the pandemic shifted the way Jewish communal life both near and far operates. It has changed the ways in which we are able to serve one another. Nearly all needs have been exacerbated by the pandemic, exposing and deepening problems with how our society functions, for whom it functions, and for whom it doesn’t and maybe never has.

Thus, now more than ever, it is important to recognize those who have long led the way toward making our community better, as well as those tirelessly paving the way to an equitable and healthy new world. It’s my privilege and honor to introduce you to the 2020 class of the Columbus Jewish News’ 18 Difference Makers.

From nominations submitted by readers, we selected 18 – or chai – individuals we believe are making a difference. Like last year, this year’s class is a diverse group. From an Orthodox rabbi, to a community member coordinating donations to a local food pantry, to a recent college graduate who served in various Jewish leadership roles at Ohio State, this year’s class attempts to bring together individuals from various segments of Jewish life to form a cohesive snapshot of tikkun olam in Jewish Columbus.

From the CEO of one of Central Ohio’s most important Jewish organizations fundraising for needs related to COVID-19 and beyond, to one who’s counseled Jewish institutions on how to weather the pandemic, to a non-Jew who dedicates himself to serving local Holocaust survivors, this year’s class also represents some of those who have taken this unprecedented situation and found a way to use their unique skills and strengths to begin to ameliorate the struggles around them.

The Difference Makers will be featured in a special commemorative section in the CJN and at columbusjewishnews.com Oct. 16. They will also be honored during a virtual prerecorded video celebration, to be released Oct. 16 in lieu of an in-person ceremony.

It is our sincere hope to be able to bring us all safely together in person, sometime in the very near future in 2021, to honor our 18 Difference Makers, in an appropriate, more formal manner.

This year’s celebration of the Difference Makers is thanks in part to Schottenstein Stores Corp., our co-presenting sponsor.

Whether in their synagogue, volunteer, philanthropic or workplace activities, these individuals demonstrate resilience and activism that takes on a new meaning in the COVID-19 era. I hope highlighting them shows the good that can come out of difficult situations, inspiring all of us that we, too, can help our community come back stronger than before.

2020 Class of 18 Difference Makers

Susan Blair, Volunteer Coordinator, Jewish Family Services

Toby Brief, Executive Director, Curator, Columbus Jewish Historical Society; Eleanore G. Yenkin Historical Collection of CJHS

Carol Glassman, Reading Intervention Specialist, Community Volunteer, Columbus City Schools

Rabbi Avi Goldstein, Rabbi, Beth Jacob Congregation

Ron Greenbaum, Owner & CEO, The Basement Doctor

Benjamin Kanas, Recent Graduate, The Ohio State University Class of 2020

Ira Owen Kane, Business Executive, Board Member, Attorney

Brett Kaufman, CEO, Kaufman Development

Inna Leah Kinney, Founder & CEO, Economic and Community Development Institute

Joel Marcovitch, CEO, JewishColumbus

Heather Pliskin, Software Integration Consultant & Project Leader, HETP Solutions

Liz Plotnick-Snay, Owner, B2Z Business Advisory Services

Garett Ray, Director of Senior and Holocaust Services, Jewish Family Services

Brian Schottenstein, President, Schottenstein Real Estate Group

Neal Shapiro, Sales Manager, Ricart Ford

Jessica Topolosky, Human Resources Representative, Value City Furniture

Dr. Philip Weinerman, Retired Radiologist, Community Volunteer, Riverside Radiology and Interventional Associates

Mark Weinstein, Volunteer Chaplain, Nationwide Children’s Hospital


Kevin S. Adelstein is Publisher and CEO of the Cleveland and Columbus Jewish News and President of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company.