2019 Ma'asim Tovim Honorees

Ma'asim Tovim Honorees Recognized at Convention 2019


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 2019 Convention in Toronto, ON.  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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View the tribute journal from the 2015 convention.


2019 Honorees: 


Anshei Darom - Mark Isbitts

Mark grew up in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, just outside of New York City.  His family were active members at the Fair Lawn Jewish Center where he attended religious school, was a bar mitzvah and learned how to play basketball.  Throughout his high school years, Mark was also a member of USY.

After High School, Mark spent a year at SUNY Albany before transferring to the University of Michigan where he majored in History and was a brother in Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.  After Ann Arbor, Mark returned home to New York where he lived and worked in Manhattan in the public relations and marketing communications world.  He then relocated to Atlanta and met his wife, Debbie shortly after the 1996 Olympic Games in town.  They married in 1997 and are the proud parents of three daughters – Julianna, Lily and Claire.  In addition, Mark has a menagerie  of two dogs, two cats and two gerbils living with him in suburban Atlanta.  Mark’s children attended Camp Ramah Darom where his wife also worked for several summers.  He was lucky enough to visit on weekends during Shabbat where he was instrumental in upgrading the quality of the Friday Night Tzevet (staff) hockey games, regularly reliving his glory years as a street hockey goalie.

Since moving to Atlanta, Mark has worked in the healthcare technology industry, primarily in product management  and product strategy.  He is an expert in healthcare Payment Integrity as well as various Product Management and Product Strategy practices.   Mark has worked for some of the leading healthcare Payment Integrity vendors where he launched several new products into the market, including several in the healthcare fraud analytics space.

Mark and his family have been active members of Congregation Etz Chaim in Marietta for some time, where he is the past Education Chairperson and his wife continues to work as a religious school teacher.  However, it was not until the death of father in 2013 that led him to the morning minyans where the other regular minyanaires (most of whom were Men’s Club members) became heavily involved with the local FJMC chapter and the Anshei Darom region.  Initially encouraged onto the Men’s Club Board, Mark soon took over as chapter president.  During this time, he began to regularly attend the annual Anshei Darom Men’s Club Retreat at Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton, Georgia.  Soon afterwards, he became chair of the annual retreat, planning the logistics, programming and marketing each year.  In addition to this role,  Mark regularly participates in the annual World Wide Wrap as well as other local chapter events. 

Mark is an avid sports fan and supporter of the University of Michigan Wolverines , Atlanta Falcons and the University of Georgia Bulldogs.

Connecticut Valley - Phil Margolis

Since his involvement in his youth in Young Judea and BBYO, Connecticut Valley Region’s Ma’sim Tovim honoree, Phil Margolis, has been an engaged member of the Jewish Community. He has been involved with FJMC at the local and regional levels for nearly 15 years. He served as his synagogue’s Brotherhood president from 2015-2017, during which his club was recognized as a Quality Club and Torch Award winner. He is active on the regional level, having served on the CVR board, attended the regional retreat and the FJMC LDI. In 2008, Phil was a recipient of the Connecticut Valley Region’s Keeper of the Flame Award.

Phil currently serves as president of the Beth Sholom B’nai Israel, a Conservative congregation in Manchester, Connecticut. Previously, he served as the synagogue’s executive vice president, vice president of fundraising

and chaired or served on various committees and projects. Once in a blue moon, he can be heard chanting Torah on Shabbat.

Outside of synagogue, Phil and his wife Sue are members of AIPAC and have attended several National Policy Conferences where they have lobbied their congressional representatives. He also serves on the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford’s Jewish Community Relations Council and Presidents’ Council, and he has volunteered in other capacities with the Federation.

Among his previously volunteer roles outside the Jewish community, he was the founding president of Rebuilding Together Hartford (then known as Christmas in April Hartford), an organization dedicated to keeping low-income homeowners living in warmth, safety and independence.

Professionally, Phil has worked as a communications professional at large financial companies, including Prudential (currently), ING/Voya Financial, BankBoston/Fleet. His work has been recognized by the regional Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators.

Phil and Sue live in Glastonbury, Connecticut. They enjoy theater, attending Jewish and Israeli cultural events, traveling, being on the water in Rhode Island and spending time with their four children, Jacob, Melissa, Alex and Emily.


Florida - tbd









Hudson Valley - tbd









KIO - tbd



Lake Ontario - tbd











Middle Atlantic - Joe Swerdlow

Joe has been involved with the Temple Beth Sholom’s Men’s Club in Cherry Hill, NJ, for the past 27 years. He was the TBS Men’s Club President from 1999-2001. He was an integral part in their Steak & Scotch event, which takes place during the week of Sukkot. You can always find Joe manning the grill cooking steaks (this year he grilled over 100 steaks) along with the buying and preparing of the accompanying dishes and appetizers for the event. This is one of his favorite events. He has also worked on many other events, including running the kitchen for the Sunday morning breakfasts. Joe was very instrumental in re-introduced Men’s Club Shabbat after several year’s absence from Temple Beth Sholom. Joe has also been a part of many Monday Night Football events and has mentored new board and new members of the TBS Men’s Club.

In 1993 Joe became an active member in the Middle Atlantic Region of the FJMC. There he held the following offices, Corresponding Secretary, Vice President, Executive Vice President and in 2006-2008 was President. Joe has chaired the MAR Man of the Year dinner for several years. Joe has also participated in LDI (Leadership Development Institute) for many years. After being President, Joe has always been available for advice and help to the Presidents’ that served after him. He is also an active member in the International FJMC, where he has served on the Executive board, has been a Vice President and has worked on many International conventions. In 2019, Joe is the chair of the International FJMC convention to be held in Toronto, Canada.  In his opinion Joe feels that international convention is the most important program a Men’s Club member could do is go to convention.

Joseph M. Swerdlow attended Riverside High School in NJ, and also attended East Carolina University and Rutgers University in Camden, NJ. He worked in his family Medical Supply business running the inside sales department for years. After that he has been a sales consultant for various medical supply companies and continues to have that position with McKesson Medical Supplies.  Joseph and his wife Debbie have two children, Neil and Sara. Sara is married to Ariel, they have an adorable two-year old son, Nathan, who is the light of everyone’s life.

Joseph has always had a special place in his heart for men’s club, whether it be at the club level, MAR level or the International Level. He always says Men’s club is his relaxation and stress reliever.  It is truly a labor of love for him.

Midwest - Howard Minkoff 

Howard Minkoff grew up in Chicago and graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1954.  He earned his Bachelor’s and later his Master’s Degree in Industrial Education, taught for thirty eight years, and in 1993 took an early retirement from the Chicago Board of Education.  Howard and Joyce were married in 1961;  Sheri was born in 1962 and Maureen in 1965.  Later, after Howard and Irene married, he became stepfather to Sharon and Steve.  Sadly, Irene passed away in 2000 and Steve in 2017 (Of Blessed Memory).  Today, together with his wife Marylyn of fifteen years,  Howard enjoys time with family and is Zadie to his “Awesome” grandchildren and great-grandchild.

Active in the former Northwest Suburban Jewish Congregation Men’s Club, Howard became involved in a variety of capacities.  After serving as 

Corresponding Secretary,  he became a member of the Men’ Club Board, chaired several Hanukkah parties,  baseball games and a special twinning program to a Wolves hockey game with Congregation Kneseth Israel of Elgin which the Midwest Region sponsored.  He worked on the Deli Box program and sang in the Men’s Club Choir.  In addition, he  served as a Co-President of the Men’s Club for two years.  In 2008 he was named the Men’s  Club Man of the Year. Also, Howard spent four years as a member of  the synagogue’s Board of Trustees until Northwest Suburban Jewish Congregation closed.

After NSJC closed, Howard  joined the Men’s Club at Congregation Beth Shalom.   He became a member of the Board three years ago, works on the Sunday morning breakfast detail, the Lieberman Center Shabbat Service Program and sings in the Men’s Club Choir.  When he joined the FJMC, Midwest Region, he served as Recording  Secretary for five years. He worked on creating Region and Club Officers’ Directories.  Howard served as a Region liaison to several clubs but primarily to CKI in Elgin.  He served on the President’s Cabinet for two years, as a Region Vice President for two years, and is once again a member of the President’s Cabinet.   When Ernie Smolen was unable to do so for six months, Howard stepped in and notified each club involved with the Lieberman Program of its weekly schedule. For two months, when the Region had the Sefer Haftorah, Howard notified the participating clubs when they would receive it and which club to send it to next.  With the illness and sad passing of Ernie Smolen (Of Blessed Memory), who handled  Lieberman, Howard was asked again to take over the Lieberman program; he currently organizes the annual scheduling of Lieberman visits, and  every week he notifies each participating Men’s Club of its weekly commitment to the program.  Howard also chaired the Committee that honored Ernie at the Midwest Region Man of the Year/Youth of the Year dinner in March 2018.

Named as this year’s FJMC Midwest Region’s Ma’sim Tovim Honoree, Howard is deeply honored to be recognized in this very special way.  He enjoys working with  others and looks forward to his continuing involvement.  After all, “The camaraderie  both in the Midwest Region and at this International Convention is an important part of what the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs is all about.”


New England - tbd



New York Metropolitan - tbd











Northern New Jersey - Dr. Joel Kurtz

Dr. Joel Kurtz’s involvement with  Men’s Club began in 2004 when he was encouraged to start a new club at his synagogue, Congregation B’nai Israel, in Toms River.  He was president of the club for the first 2 years of it’s existence, and is once again club president since July, 2017.  At the regional level, Joel was a   Man of the Year Dinner chairman, a regional vice president, and a district Rosh.  At the International level he was the ritual co-chairman and chairman at the 2009 and 2011 FJMC Conventions, respectively. From July,2014 through July, 2016, he served as President of the NNJR region. When he complete his term as president of the region, Joel was appointed for a two year term to the FJMC Executive committee.

Joel also remains very active in his synagogue.  In addition to being the current Men’s Club president, he is also a long time member of the Board of Trustees and Ritual Chairman.

Joel’s love of Judaism was inculcated in him at an early age by his family, synagogue, and involvement in Young Judaea.   His interest in Jewish life was reignited when his children attended Hebrew school and were preparing for their B’nai Mitzvah and after he visited Israel with a group of leaders of the FJMC.  It was at this time that he committed to become an active participant in Men’s Club.  He loves his involvement in all facets of Jewish life, at home with his family, in his synagogue, and with his friends in his local Men’s Club, region, and FJMC.

In his professional life, Joel is a gastroenterologist in Lakewood and Toms River, NJ.   He practices at the Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus in Lakewood and Community Medical Center in Toms River.  He has been a well respected physician in Ocean County since 1988.

Joel is married to Debbie, his wife, partner, and best friend for 33 years.  They have a terrific family:  his sons Michael and Brian, Brian’s wife Jess, his 5 year old grandson, Harry, and his 3 yr. old granddaughter, Rosie.


Seaboard - tbd










Tri-State - tbd











Western - tbd