At the Cleveland Jewish News’ 2021 18 Difference Makers event Dec. 9, attendees were witness to the collective moral compass of each of the honorees and the forces that drive them to give back as much as, if not more than what they get from the local Jewish community.
After a year apart in a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, about 400 people gathered in person at Landerhaven in Mayfield Heights and 100 additional viewers tuned in online to honor those who persevered through the last year and continue to do so, no matter the barriers and obstacles the community faces.
The Temple-Tifereth Israel’s Rabbi Yael Dadoun, formally introduced by Kevin S. Adelstein, publisher and CEO of the Cleveland Jewish News and president of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, led the attendees and honorees in prayer. Dadoun said in regard to the honorees, the status quo “isn’t enough” and pushes them to “always do more.”
“After just celebrating Chanukah, a holiday that reminds us to bring light into darkness, we are reminded that our work isn’t done,” Dadoun said. “Grant us the strength, the ability and the fulfillment to continue to perform acts of kindness and give of ourselves.”
And the honorees continually seek opportunities to make change, Adelstein said in addressing attendees. Finding ways to uplift the local community – as well as take part in national and international initiatives – isn’t a chore for the 2021 class of 18 Difference Makers. Rather, it is a personal mission and a call to action, he said.
He added the same could be said about the 2020 class, who weren’t able to be honored with an in-person event because of the pandemic.
“Giving back to our community is a long-held value in Northeast Ohio, and it’s what drove the Cleveland Jewish News to create the 18 Difference Makers event back in 2015, to celebrate those dedicated to making a change in the local Jewish community and beyond,” he said. “Six years later, I continue to be moved and in awe of the dedication I see of those who continue to find new ways to step up and offer their time, talent and treasure wherever it is needed most. Greater Cleveland is at no loss of those willing to give of themselves to the vast array of causes that desperately need support.”
Paul J. Singerman, board chair of the CJPC, echoed a similar sentiment, noting his happiness to return to an in-person celebration to honor the best of the Cleveland Jewish community.
“On behalf of myself and the entire CJPC board, I want to congratulate the 2021 class of 18 Difference Makers, and I want to especially congratulate Peter and Aliki Rzepka on their Lifetime Achievement Award and the Saltzman family on their Generation Award,” he said. “The Cleveland community is certainly far better off from your efforts and contributions, for many, many years.”
A video produced by shark&minnow played introducing attendees to this year’s class of 18 Difference Makers, followed by each attendee coming to the stage to accept their award, and take a photo with Adelstein and a representative from one of the event’s co-presenting sponsors: Matt Dietz, general manager of Classic Lexus, or Kenneth B. Liffman, chairman of the board and president at McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Liffman Co., LPA. Liffman is also on the board of directors of the Cleveland Jewish News Foundation.
In presenting the Generation Award to the Saltzmans, the family dynasty behind Dave’s Supermarkets, Inc. and local Lucky’s Market stores, Singerman credited their commitment to l’dor v’dor, or from generation to generation.
“There are very few families who can say they’ve made a difference over one generation or two,” Singerman said. “There are almost no families like the Saltzman family that can say they’ve made a difference over five generations. I can think of no more deserving family for this award.”
The final award of the night, the Lifetime Achievement Award, was presented to Peter and Aliki Rzepka. Though they couldn’t attend in person, their granddaughter Leora Cohen accepted the award on their behalf. Cohen was also a member of the 2018 class of the CJN’s 12 Under 36: Members of the Tribe.
“What they have accomplished and achieved would be nothing short of amazing for a person born and raised with normal advantages here in the U.S.,” Freimuth said. “When one thinks of where they came from and what they have survived, it is almost unimaginable. ... When Peter and Aliki make a commitment, it’s for life. They’re shining examples of how to live a fully committed Jewish life. They are an inspiration.”
In addition to the Rzepkas and the Saltzman family, the 2021 class of 18 Difference Makers include: Edna Talmor Akrish, Sam Chestnut, Loren Chylla, Beth Nusbaum Curtiss, Ronald Gross, Maya Holtz Groys, Adam G. Jacobs, Amy R. Kaplan, Sally and Donald H. Messinger, James Pasch, Susan Ratner, Carrie Rosenfelt, Stephen L. Rudolph, Jeffrey D. Schwartz, Patricia A. Shlonsky, Dr. Mark Stovsky, Thomas Sudow and Muriel Weber.
Along with the co-presenting sponsors, supporting sponsors were COIT Cleaning and Restoration Services and shark&minnow. Other sponsors included: the Krause Family Foundation as the Generation Award sponsor; Cleveland Jewish Funerals as the cocktail sponsor; Rent a Daughter Senior Care Services as the lanyard sponsor; and the Cuyahoga County Public Library as the video sponsor.