By David Edwards
The Ma’asim Tovim Award is given to one individual member of each FJMC region at the biennial convention to recognize his outstanding achievements in his region, his club and the community. Ma’asim Tovim, which means the Doer of Good Deeds, is signified by a beautiful engraved trophy presented to each honoree at a special ceremony at each convention.
In recent years, the presentation ceremony has begun by introducing the honorees through a video superbly put together by Steve Lessman. The video shows the honorees answering various questions about their role in Men’s Clubs and the FJMC. Whether you saw the video when presented at the Convention or viewed it on the FJMC website (video), it is clear that these honorees demonstrate considerable wisdom that benefits us all, whether you want to find better ways to run your Men’s Club or simply find ways to improve interpersonal relationships or your enjoyment in life.
These gems of wisdom are illustrated here by answers to just a few of the questions in this video. Through these questions and answers, one gains an appreciation of the impact the FJMC has had on them and conversely that they have had on the FJMC.
Q: What would you tell a fellow synagogue member why he should join the Men’s Club? Here are some of the great answers given that you may wish to use in your own membership recruitment:
- Like sales, very seldom do you get them on the first ask.
- I would tell fellow members of the synagogue they have a chance to share experiences with other men, to work to develop programming and ideas that benefit your synagogue, be a part of something much bigger than our community, and work on programs that are meaningful to Jews.
- You don’t have to come every week. However, we may be doing something that will strike a chord within you and you can be involved at that point.
- When you come to services, you are going to have friends to sit with. You are going to feel so much more connected. We would absolutely love to have you as an active member.
Q: How has your involvement in Men’s Club and the FJMC helped you grow as a Jewish man?
- It’s helped me share and grow closer to men of different levels of Jewish commitment.
- It has helped me to connect with men of different generations.
- It’s helped me to become a better person.
- It’s helped me to understand the needs of other people and to be aware of what their needs are.
- In helping my club, it made me a better leader.
- Not as a Jewish man but as a man, that we were all taught by Burt Fischman, z"l, how to get up in front of people, how to make your notes, don’t rely on a sheet of paper.
Thus, it is clear that involvement in Men’s Clubs and the FJMC has many aspects that will enable its members to grow.
Q: The theme of this year’s convention is Inspiring, Serious and Fun. What does that mean to you?
- What we do is inspiring because it is not only for the Men's Club but we do it for the community.
- Inspiring men to be together in Jewish life and at the same time teaching and sharing how difficult it can be today.
- If we are too serious, then we get ourselves an inflated sense of self, and if it's all about fun, it is frivolous and we missed an opportunity. We need to be both serious and fun at the same time in order to have a well balanced inner soul and to bring that balance of peace and harmony to the world.
- Steve Krodman, z’’l, best epitomized this theme of “Inspiring, Serious and Fun”. Steve was very funny and witty but he also was serious about Judaism and Men’s Clubs. He made men feel welcome and inspired them to participate.
If you are looking for ways to inspire your Men’s Club members to become more involved in club activities, the synagogue and in the Jewish community, clearly it is worth following the words and deeds of the Ma’asim Tovim honorees. Come to Convention and you can meet the honorees from each region, including your own. You will certainly be inspired and better informed how to invigorate your own club. (By the way, plan now for the next FJMC Convention, which will be held June 30-July 4, 2021, in Chicago.)
You will also find the award ceremony a fun event. It is almost like attending 14 weddings at the same time (none of which you have to pay for!) . After all the awardees have been called to the stage to accept the Ma’asim Tovim trophies, each honoree stands under his own tallit with his wife or someone else he had selected. Then, four cantors sing a priestly blessing and the entire audience joins in. Finally, the ceremony concludes with great photo opportunities for the honorees to share with their friends and regions.
Irwin Harris (center) with his Ma’asim Tovim award,
Alex Kiderman, President of the Tri-State Region, and Irwin’s wife, Rose.
After the convention, the honorees are certain to find a bookshelf or some other cherished location to display their trophies, but much more importantly, they will continue to inspire the recipients to a continuation and escalation of the good work that led to the honor. A look at the names of past winners on the FJMC website reveals a list of dedicated men who have continued their leadership and commitment to the organization and their Jewish communities, in many cases decades past being awarded this honor. In fact, many have grown to new heights in the following years, as exemplified by at least ten of the past winners going on to become international presidents of the FJMC.
As the awardees have continued to grow in the years following receiving these awards, each one has served as role models impacting many more Jewish men with their wisdom and dedication. No doubt, some of those men will go on to become future Ma’asim Tovim awardees. Perhaps you will be one!
David Edwards is a Past President of the FJMC Tri-State Region and of the Tree of Life Men’s Club in Pittsburgh. He is Professor Emeritus of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. He and his wife, Mary Dawn, a retired pediatrician, are both natives of North Carolina and have two daughters and two grandchildren.