difference makers

star-studded cast highlights the 2017 class of the Cleveland Jewish News 18 Difference Makers. The list includes attorneys, company presidents, organization directors, business owners, community volunteers, a judge and other highly esteemed members of the Northeast Ohio Jewish community.

In addition to the 18 Difference Makers, in which one couple will be honored, the CJN also will honor the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, the Civic Leadership Award recipient and the Generation Award honorees, at a dinner at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at Landerhaven, 6111 Landerhaven Drive in Mayfield Heights.

“The Cleveland Jewish News created this signature event to show Northeast Ohio just how rich our community is with inspiring and giving individuals, all of whom are focused and committed to providing a better community through their efforts and acts,” said Kevin S. Adelstein, CJN publisher and CEO and president of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company. 

“Nearly 100 nominations were submitted this year, and those selected wholeheartedly demonstrate the unique qualities of tikkun olam (repairing the world), which the selection committee strongly considers when choosing honorees.” 

The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Norma Geller, whose name adorns the Albert and Norma Geller Hillel Student Center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

At a donor celebration in May 2016 for the new building, CWRU President Barbara R. Snyder called Albert and Norma Geller “visionary leaders” and expressed her gratitude to all of the individuals who contributed to the campaign.

“We wouldn’t be here without your support, and look at the difference it has made,” Snyder said. “We are enabling a great facility to be active in our community, not just for our roughly 1,200 Jewish students at Case Western Reserve, but lots of our students are using this space.”

The Civic Leadership Award will go to Darrell A. Young, CEO of Darrell A. Young Enterprises LLC. The company specializes in real estate and construction consulting and property management.

Young has volunteered in leadership roles throughout the city, including past board chair at Montefiore, Mandel Jewish Community Center, Ohio City Improvement Corp. and the renovation committee of the Mandel JCC.

The Generation Award recognizes a family that has instilled the values of tikkun olam – a tenant of Judaism – across generations. That award will go to members of the Ponsky family: Dr. Jeffrey Ponsky, Medworks board of directors member; Dr. Lee Ponsky, founder and board president of MedWish International; and Zachary Ponsky, founder and board president of Medworks.

Founded in 1993, MedWish International is a not-for-profit organization that saves lives and the environment by repurposing discarded medical supplies and equipment to provide humanitarian aid in developing countries. 

Since 2009, Medworks has played an integral role in linking people who are uninsured and underinsured with health care.

“For those not familiar with the work of Norma Geller, Darrell Young and the Ponsky family, the roles they play in improving the quality of life for those around us and around the world are integral, and their generous acts have an almost immeasurable impact,” Adelstein said.

The criteria for Difference Makers were as follows: they had to be at least 18 years old by July 31, 2017, and have ties to Northeast Ohio; they should be making a difference in Northeast Ohio’s Jewish community by being active through a nonprofit organization, volunteer group or professional endeavor; and they must demonstrate the “mensch-like” characteristics of honor and integrity.

Difference Makers do not have to be Jewish, but their efforts must help better the Northeast Ohio Jewish community.

The celebratory event will feature cocktails, food stations and networking followed by the main program. Kosher dietary laws will be observed. Tickets for the event are $72 each and can be purchased at cjn.org/differencemakers.   

Co-presenting sponsors are: Classic Lexus, Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management and HW Financial Advisors. For sponsorship opportunities, contact Events Manager Gina Lloyd at 216-342-5196.

The honorees will be featured in a special pull-out commemorative section in the Nov. 17 issue of the CJN and as well as on cjn.org and facebook.com/clevelandjewishnews.

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CJN Managing Editor