Ma'asim Tovim Honorees Recognized at Convention 2017
The Ma'asim Tovim Award is the highest recognition a Region can give to one of its members. It is usually given to individuals who have worked on behalf of the region for many years. The 2017 honorees are set forth below, as well as short bios and why they are to be so honored. Their awards will be presented at the 2017 Convention in Washington, DC. To really understand the impact our past honorees have made on FJMC members in their communities and regions, watch this video.
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- Anshei Darom - Steve Dix
- Connecticut Valley - Marty Melnick
- Florida - Elliott Davis
- Hudson Valley - Andy Alper
- KIO - Doug Segerman
- Lake Ontario - Hersh Garnick
- Middle Atlantic - Leonard Abrams
- Midwest - Gerald Brin
- New England - Stephen Baum
- New York Metropolitan - Hal Berkowitz
- Northern New Jersey - Jeff Schulman
- Seaboard - Mark Berlin
- Tri-State - Sanford Zaremberg
- Western - Marc Firestone
Anshei Darom - Steve Dix
Steve Dix has been around a bit. He was born in London, England; emigrated to the United States with his family when he was 7; grew up in Houston; started college at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; bounced between the University of Houston and the University of Texas at Austin to finish his undergraduate studies; went to law school at the University of Texas at Austin; rejoined the Navy in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (nothing like the TV show) where he spent time in Newport, Rhode Island and Long Beach, California; moved back to Houston when he finished his active duty in the Navy; and finally ended up in Marietta, Georgia, where he has managed to stay put for the last 30 years.
In the midst of all that turmoil, Steve met and married his beloved Debby, and they were gloriously in love with each other for 44 years until he lost her in 2015. In 1980 Steve and Debby became the proud parents of Josh, now on the faculty at the University of Georgia: Monica, currently the Director of Programmatic Advertising at Rodale Publishing in New York, came along in 1983. As Steve’s journey has continued over the last two years, he has met the new light in his life, and he and Bonnie are engaged to be married in the very near future.
When Steve and Debby moved to Marietta in 1987 they immediately became members of Congregation Etz Chaim. Debby became active in the Sisterhood, but Steve stayed far, far away from active participation in anything that he thought smacked of synagogue politics. When Steve’s mother passed away in 2004 and he was attending services every day to say Kaddish, it was Larry Travis z’’l, a staunch supporter of the Men’s Club, who taught Steve how to lay tefillin – something he had never learned to do as a young man growing up in a Reform shul. And yet Steve remained blissfully (and intentionally) unaware of the goings on at the Etz Chaim Men’s Club... until, one day, in order to get certain unnamed friends off his back, he agreed to attend the Anshei Darom Regional Retreat. The rest, as they say, is history.
Having attended that Retreat and seeing what Men’s Club was about, it didn’t take long for Steve to end up on the Men’s Club Board of Trustees, later becoming Recording Secretary, then Co-President, then Club President. During his administration, Steve led the way in establishing a relationship with the Catholic Church of St. Ann, a relationship has resulted in the development of community programs that have yielded two Torch Awards for the Club. Still, to this point, his involvement was very much Club-centric.
It was not until he attended his first International Convention in 2011 that the whole FJMC experience really took hold. It was there, in Costa Mesa, that he met men from outside the Region, learned about programs he had been unaware of - even as President of the Club - and truly understood the real mission of Involving Jewish Men in Jewish Life. It was there and then that the proverbial Kool-Aid was consumed. Shortly after that Convention, as the Anshei Darom Regional Board was entering a time of turmoil, Steve was asked to take the role of Executive Vice President. Then it was off to LDI where he learned even more about the great things FJMC does and how it gets them done. In 2013 Steve stepped up to become Regional President, holding that position until earlier this year. In 2015 he was honored to join the FJMC International Board as a Presidential appointee, working most closely with Allan Kahan with the Club Services portfolio. Now, as we enter the new 2017-19 administration, Steve has been tapped to step up to the role of Treasurer.
It has been an amazing ride, and Steve is looking forward to many more great adventures as part of this truly amazing organization.
Connecticut Valley - Marty Melnick
Marty grew up in Pittsburgh, PA with two loving parents, an older sister, and two younger brothers. His identical twin girls Jamie and Allie, now 29, are the light of his life.
An active high-schooler, Marty served as president of the Steel City AZA, leading it to win the Western Pennsylvania Winter Tournament. After graduating from Penn State University with majors in marketing and chemistry, he began his sales career with Hoover and Royal Business Machine, eventually becoming International Marketing VP at Royal, where he was credited with the concept of marketing cash registers through retail channels. Royal’s corporate parent Volkswagen AG selected Marty to head a new OEM division as Corporate VP to fill empty German factories, where he succeeded by signing a contract with IBM to produce typewriters. Marty founded three companies he ran concurrently for 25 years all in the field of office automation. In retirement, he has started a new real estate investment company: Tova Homes, LLC.
Marty’s volunteer bug began at Beth El Temple, where he has served in numerous positions of leadership. He invited FJMC’s David Kaplan to Beth El to introduce Keruv to the community; helped form an Israel Engagement Committee after attending FJMC’s Israel Engagement training; and chaired the original La’atid Committee to develop priorities and visions for Beth El. His community work included serving on the Yachad Jewish Community High School board for seven years (including a stint as president), along with serving as president of the Probus Club, a Hartford charity raising funds for the mentally and physically challenged community. Marty remains active in Jewish affairs, participating in AIPAC, Christians United for Israel, and other local organizations.
Involvement in FJMC began at the club level when he was asked to become executive VP with the understanding he would take over as president for a two-year term. The Men’s Club became the go-to partner for programming, working with the educational director, rabbis, executive director, Sisterhood, Chai Society, and BEMA committee. Under Marty’s leadership the Men’s Club received two Quality Club Awards and seven Torch Awards, including a Gold Torch Award for best overall programming. At the 2015 annual Distinguished Service Award Banquet, Marty was acknowledged for his many years of service to the Beth El community.
Marty has served the Connecticut Valley Region of FJMC in many positions, including treasurer, executive VP, and currently as president. He has also been Hearing Men’s Voices chair, creating many original HMV programs. He developed first Regional Strategic Plan and grew the Connecticut Valley Region from six to eight clubs. He was honored as Regional Keeper of the Flame in 2013.
International involvement began when Marty attended his first Convention in 2011. Afterward, he was asked to participate on the FJMC Branding and Marketing Committee, which created the new slogan “Leadership, Innovation, Community.” A year later, Marty was asked to chair the Torch Committee for the next convention, where he introduced the use of a video presentation in which award winners could share their programming ideas. In 2013 he served as Yellow Candle marketing chair.
The camaraderie with leaders worldwide and having personal relationships that provide answers and direction is what FJMC is all about, says Marty. He is thrilled to be honored by the Connecticut Valley Region and extends a “Yasher Koach” to all his fellow Ma’asim Tovim award recipients.
Florida - Elliott Davis
Elliott Davis was born in Montreal, Canada, the son of European immigrants. He attended Northmount High School and graduated from Sir George Williams University in Montreal with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. After traveling through Europe for 4 months with a childhood friend, he settled into his first job with a public accounting firm.
Elliott took his first position on the Florida Region Executive Board in 2005 as the Central Florida sub-region VP. Soon afterwards he relocated back to South Florida for a new job. The region president did not want to lose Elliott’s talent and dedication, and so he decided to change his title to South Florida sub-region VP. He served as Treasurer and First VP and later was elected President of the Florida Region. After his term ended, he became Immediate Past President as well as Treasurer for two terms.
Hudson Valley - Andy Alper
Andy Alper grew up in Brooklyn, NY. His love of Judaism and the concept of doing what is right were passed on by his parents. Summers at Cejwin Camps influenced him, and helped form his belief that life is more beautiful and meaningful when lived within the context of Jewish law and tradition. Andy attended Cornell University and Brooklyn College where he majored in philosophy. He has been an insurance broker his entire career, and is currently a Vice President at Marsh.
Andy was married in 1980 to Alyse Weitz, the love of his life. The Alpers have both been active members of New City Jewish Center since moving to New City, NY in 1992. They have three daughters: Meryl, an assistant professor of communications at Northeastern University; Taryn, a speech-language pathologist working with autistic children in the South Bronx; and Devra an occupational therapist at Kessler Institute.
Andy strongly believes in the importance of service to both the Jewish and overall communities. With the FJMC, he is co-Webmaster, Nominating Committee member, Convention Committee member, member of the Board of Directors, and Torch Award judge. Other past committee memberships include wellness think tank and editor of the current Club Officer Manual. Within the Hudson Valley Region FJMC, he is a past president and webmaster. He was also a region retreat programming chair.
At New City Jewish Center he is Secretary of the Board of Trustees, Shiva minyan leader, insurance committee chair, past Men’s Club President, past PTA President, and past Board of Education member. Other NCJC past committee involvements include ritual committee, dinner committee, playground, security, and Shabbat booklet co-editor. He is currently a Red Cross Ready When the Time Comes Volunteer at Marsh and a CCFA Taking Steps Team Leader.
Andy is honored to be the Ma’asim Tovim honoree from the Hudson Valley Region FJMC. It is Andy’s hope that each of us contributes to the extent possible to engage our fellows in experiencing the beauty and meaningfulness of Judaism.
KIO - Doug Segerman
Doug believes very strongly that this honor is based upon the work and sacrifice of a lot of wonderful people, including his wife, children, parents, siblings, club members and regional members, and he thanks all of his friends and family for being supportive of his work, including those from Cincinnati, Columbus and the FJMC organization.
Lake Ontario - Hersh Garnick
Hersh Garnick was born in Toronto, Ontario and attended Seneca College in Toronto, majoring in business. After college, he went into the family furniture business, continuing there for thirty-five years. For the past thirty years Hersh has also worked in Property Management in Toronto as well.
As has happened to many of us, Hersh got involved in synagogue life while saying Kaddish for his father. Long-standing FJMC active members Neil Melman and Charles Wrock took Hersh under their wing and got him involved in the Adath Israel Brotherhood. They literally “hooked” him by inviting him to go to the Brotherhood’s “Scotch and Scuba Diving” event.
Hersh’s involvement in Adath Israel includes ten years of service on the synagogue board. He is currently a vice president of the Adath Israel Brotherhood. He has also been involved for six years on the FJMC Lake Ontario Region executive committee.
Hersh continues to be active in the Adath Israel Brotherhood and is always looking for ways to keep the club vibrant for future growth with new ideas and programs. He is also a member of the very special Club L’Chayim and was a charter member, earning the number “Sixteen of.” His involvement is limited to the social aspect of the club since drinking Scotch is currently not part of this regular lifestyle, alas.
Other activities that keep Hersh busy include photography (he is the official photographer of the Adath Israel Brotherhood and of the Lake Ontario Region), bike riding, SCUBA diving, hiking, and finding another fix it job around the house. He is looking forward to attending another FJMC International Convention in July and is very honored to have been chosen as the Lake Ontario Region’s Ma’asim Tovim recipient for 2017.
Middle Atlantic - Leonard Abrams
Leonard Abrams is the Middle Atlantic Region’s Man of the Year and Ma’asim Tovim honoree in appreciation of his many years of devotion and work on behalf of his club, the region and the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs.
Len has been involved with Beth Sholom Men’s Club in Elkins Park, PA for the past 22 years, serving in many leadership roles including religious vice president and Men’s Club President from 2001-2004. He initiated many programs during his tenure including Beef & Beer dances, Beatlemania, innovative men’s Shabbat programming including a scholar in residence weekend studying scrolls and featuring the Haftorah from an individual FJMC Scroll and a Keruv town meeting (“Let’s Talk About It”).
After his term at Beth Sholom, Len was appointed to the MAR Board. He served as Regional President from 2011-2013 and is proud to have initiated and chaired the region's successful Tour de Shuls bike ride for Camp Ramah and inaugurated the annual Hersh Muchnick Leadership Development Institute regional training session for club officers during his term in office. Len is currently the Honorary President of the Region and serves as FJMC Chair of the Yom HaShoah/Yellow Candle Committee. He has served as the Gabbai for the evening minyan at Beth Sholom Congregation since 1998.
After graduating from Northeast High School, Len attended Temple University where he received a B.A. in Political Science. He received his law degree from Villanova University Law School in 1973 and a post graduate law degree in taxation from Temple University School of Law in 1976. In addition to running a successful law practice, Len and his wife, Linda are thrilled to share in the joys of their children and grandchildren – Joshua, Emilie, Miller and Piper; Chad, Lindsay and Jaxson, Joshua, Rachael, Samuel and Benjamin; Daniel, Amy, Lila and Isaac; Zachary; Rachel and Jenny.
Len feels Men’s Club presents an unlimited opportunity to develop leadership, enhance Jewish education and create innovative programming to engage and involve men in Jewish life while providing service to their shul’s community.
Midwest - Gerald Brin
Gerald Brin began his FJMC journey by joining North Suburban Synagogue Beth El Men’s Club 1993. He went on to hold many offices in the club, including secretary, executive vice president, and president, currently serving on the board of directors. Gerald also served on the board of directors and House Committee of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL.
Gerald married his beautiful wife Mimi in 1968 and has two terrific children, Keith and Michael, and six gorgeous grandchildren: Sheridan, Hudson, Arden, Zachary, Jacob, and Joshua.
In 2001 Gerald was awarded North Suburban Beth El Synagogue Men’s Club Man of the Year, a significant honor after many years of service to the Men’s Club and synagogue. He then got involved at the Regional level. As had he done with his own local Men’s Club, he began taking on increasing responsibilities: secretary, vice president, executive vice president, eventually becoming president of FJMC’s Midwest Region from 2009 to 2011. Gerald continues to be active in the Region, serving on the board of directors and managing the dinners at the Region’s monthly meetings.
Most recently, Gerald became a member of Congregation B’nai Tikvah in Deerfield, joining the Men’s Club there and serving on their Board of Directors. He also chaired the congregation’s Building and Beautification Committee. Gerald currently sits on Congregation B’nai Tikvah’s board of directors and chairs their House Committee. He has continued his involvement in FJMC at the international level, having taken on roles that include FJMC International Yellow Candle Chairman, Quality Club Award Chairman, and the FJMC Region and Club Services Committee, where he currently serves.
Gerald has been active in other community roles as well, serving as a member of the Construction Advisory Commission of Highland Park (IL) School District 112, maintaining both professional and advisory relationships with the school district. He also was a member of the North Skokie Highway Corridor Strategic Planning Subcommittee of the City of Highland Park. He was a member of the Highland Park Design Review Commission, serving as its Chairman from May 1997-99. In 1998, Gerry was honored with the statewide “Those Who Excel” Award for Meritorious Service, awarded by the State of Illinois Board of Education for his service to the Highland Park School District.
Gerald has been a leader of the Highland Park Rotary Club, having served as its secretary, treasurer, and president. In addition, from 2000-07 he served on the Board of Directors of the Community Family Center of Highland Park, IL, a partnership of six family and childcare organizations created to improve the quality of life and to provide services for children and families who live and work in Highland Park, Highwood, and the surrounding communities.
Currently, Gerald is the principal in the Architectural firm of G. Allen Brin & Associates, Architects, Ltd., in Highland Park, which he founded in 1976. The firm specializes in the renovation, reconstruction, and inspection of office, residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, providing architectural services for new office, residential, commercial, industrial and residential buildings. In 2004, Gerald received the Highland Park Preservation Honorable Mention Award for the design, restoration, and rehabilitation of 658 Central Avenue, Highland Park, Illinois.
New England - Stephen Baum
New York Metropolitan - Hal Berkowitz
A Californian by birth, Hal considers himself a true New Yorker since he has lived here since 1960. Although not raised with formal Jewish education, Hal has become a dedicated Conservative Jew and enjoys few things as much as ushering every Shabbat at the Forest Hills Jewish Center. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees at FHJC and, for the past 23 years, has been a co-chair of the Shiva Minyan Committee.
As a committed member and past president of the FHJC Men’s Club, Hal worked tirelessly to keep Men’s Club in the forefront of activities at the Center working on programming as well as helping Men’s Club continue to provide engraved kiddush cups to the Center’s b’nai mitzvah. He then became a member of the NY Metro regional board of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, and he has continued to donate his time and energy to advancing the causes and values that FJMC represents, including bringing innovative programing to the bi-annual Quad retreats as part of the planning committees.
Hal has been married to his wife, Dorrie, for 43 years. They have one son, Taylor, who is a high school American History teacher and a very successful ice hockey coach.
Hal is grateful to the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs and thanks his colleagues on the NY Metro board for nominating him for this honor. May we all go from strength to strength.
Northern New Jersey - Jeff Schulman
Jeff Schulman was born and raised in the American Shtetel of Albany, NY. All during their years in Albany, there was a Schulman in Temple Israel every day, whether attending Hebrew School, Junior Congregation, regular Shabbat Services, USY, LTF, working in the Office or on the Board of Directors, you could always find Mimi, Marty (Jeff’s parents), Michael, Seth (older brothers) or Jeff. During those years, Jeff learned a lot about being a volunteer in a Jewish organization, except perhaps for how to say no.
Jeff attending SUNY Albany where he met the Elyse, the love of his life, and after they got married in 1986, they moved to Edison NJ, where they knew absolutely no one. Jeff and Elyse almost immediately joined Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen and have been there ever since. The Schulmans became active immediately and were leaders of the Young Couples Club where they made a group of friends that eventually became their Chavurah and closest friends to this day. Elyse and Jeff attended Shul on an irregular basis but whenever there was work to be done, setting up chairs for the High Holy Days, setting up the Sukkah, cleaning closets and such, they were there.
Haley was born in 1991 and Whitney in 1994. Around that time, the Schulmans started attending Shabbat Services regularly. Jeff noticed that there was no active Men’s Club and in 1995 along with Dave Yellin and a group of guys restarted the Neve Shalom Men’s Club. Jeff was president from 1996 – 1999, the first time and from 2003 – 2005 the second time. In between, Jeff was a Shul VP, in charge of House and Education. Once again, there was almost never a day when there wasn’t a Schulman in the Shul.
Jeff attended his first FJMC convention in 2003 and was asked to join the Northern New Jersey Regional Board in 2004 by Stan Schnitzer. Both were things that sparked a love of FJMC in Jeff. Within the NNJR, Jeff has been Treasurer, Vice President and was President from 2012 – 2014. Working with his own club and serving on the regional board and two of the most enjoyable things that Jeff does on a regular basis.
Having attended every convention since 2003, Jeff has also been very active in the FJMC as a Consultant, taking different roles at Conventions (Ritual Chair, Opening Ceremonies Chair, Club and Regional Training Chair) as well LDI Chair and is currently on the FJMC Executive Board as the IT Chair working with the Communications Team. Jeff truly believes that the FJMC is at the front of the Conservative / Masorti Movement and looks forward to working as part of the FJMC for many years to come.
Seaboard - Mark Berlin
Mark Berlin served as the FJMC’s international president from 2009 until 2011. Prior to that he was president of the Adas Israel (Washington, DC) Men’s Club three times and was presented with the club’s only Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. Mark went on to be president of the Seaboard Region and held several international positions before assuming the FJMC presidency, including chairmanship of the 1999 and 2001 FJMC international conventions. He is now on the Board of the Har Shalom (Potomac, MD) Men’s Club and runs its community service activities.
Mark’s Men’s Club experience has been marked by his development of new programs that have become standard operating procedure. At the club level he developed an award-winning program consisting of monthly visits to assisted living homes, where he led abbreviated Shabbat services - a program he has continued doing for more than 30 years. At the regional level he started an inter-club It’s Academic trivia competition that brings clubs together from all over the region. At the international level his goal was to help Men’s Clubs grow and be more responsive to the needs of men in their congregations. To this end, he developed the Quality Club Award, the Advantage newsletter for club presidents, and the first Program Fair at a convention (in 1997). During his FJMC presidency he traveled more than 48,000 miles for the organization and personally visited 63 Men’s Clubs across the continent. He has attended every FJMC international convention since 1985 and is well known for his “Club Erector Set” training sessions.
Mark, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, received his BA degree from Northwestern University and his law degree from George Washington Law School. His entire career was at the Federal Communications Commission, where he specialized in television licensing and political rules. He retired from the FCC in 2014 and since then has been active in a variety of endeavors. He and his wife Leslie deliver food to shut-ins every week for Meals-on-Wheels. He is a sometimes substitute teacher teaching math and social studies in public middle and high schools. For the past two years Mark has chaired the High Holy Day ushering at Adas Israel, which involves finding ushers for 110 ushering slots. He continues to lead monthly services at assisted living homes and to run the region’s It’s Academic competition. Mark and Leslie, who live in Potomac, MD, have a son Justin, who is a lawyer in Washington.
Sandy Zaremberg is a past president of the Beth Shalom Men’s Club and the Tri-State Region. He also has served in most of the officer positions and all vice president positions for both the Beth Shalom Men’s Club and Tri-State.
Sandy has been a Beth Shalom Sweepstakes Committee member since 1992 when he became a past president of the Beth Shalom Men’s Club. He also serves on the Beth Shalom Men’s Club Sports Luncheon Committee. Sandy has chaired or co-chaired the Annual Men’s Club Shabbat every year since 1989. From the early 1980’s through the mid 90’s he has also chaired numerous Men’s Club brunches and Mother’s Day dinners. Through the Men’s Club, he has been a weekly Shabbat morning service usher for more than 20 years.
With Congregation Beth Shalom, Sandy currently records the congregation’s phone greetings on a weekly basis, updating minyan and Shabbat times as well as weekly events. He served on the Beth Shalom Board of Trustees for more than 15 years. He chaired the Membership Committee for three years and has served on many major shul committees, including the House and Constitution Committee, where he still serves, along with being on the Nominating Committee recently. Sandy has chaired congregational picnics, open houses and other special events. He was also coach of the USY basketball team.
Sandy and his wife Elinor are the proud parents of their son, Robert.