Distinguished Service Award

FJMC Logo + Distinguished Service Award

The Distinguished Service Award is presented on a biennial basis to individuals in recognition and appreciation of many years of distinguished service to the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs, For years, we’ve recognized men at the club level at Regional Men of the Year events.  Regional leaders are honored for long service to the region as Maasim Tovim Honorees.  We have had past international presidents whose involvement stayed with and contributed to the organization for many years past their term. However, we have never recognized those who never became international presidents but who have contributed distinguished service to the international organization for many years.  Going forwards our website will honor these indiividuals for their numerous contributions. Peter Gotlieb, Richard Gray, and Joe Swerdlow are the first members to be admitted to this unique group.


2023 Honorees

Should you wish to show your appreciation of what the honorees have done, tributes may be made at this link prior to the 2023 convention, https://fjmc.org/2023-tribute-journal.  The tributes may be viewed after the convention at the same link.

Peter Gottlieb

Peter's photoPeter Gotlieb is a member of Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, NJ and a Past President of its Men's Club. He is also a Past President of the FJMC's Northern New Jersey Region and has previously served on the FJMC's Executive Committee where he provided oversight for the organization's leadership development/training portfolio. Peter worked with Burt Fischman (aka Captain Ruach) and current FJMC President Allan Kahan for several years in providing such leadership development training for the FJMC Executive Committee.

He has served for many years as an advisor to the New York Metro Region and has been a regular presenter/trainer at a number of retreats in several regions, as well as at multiple FJMC Conventions. He has visited and provided consulting support to clubs in a number of FJMC regions with respect to leadership development of club officers and initiating Keruv interfaith activities. In recent years Peter provided partial oversight of the FJMC New York City Office and helped in the closing of that office and its transition to Officense while serving on the organization's Office Operations Committee. He is a current Board Member of the FJMC Foundation for Jewish Life and a long-term monthly contributor to the Friends of FJMC. Most recently, Peter served on the organization's Nominating and Executive Director Search Committees and was selected as one of eight Club Consultants who will be providing assistance to member clubs needing special support. As a Past President, he continues to serve on the Northern NJ Region Executive Board.

Personal notes and reflections: I have shared my life for the last 52+ years with my wife Diane. We currently split our time between a town house in West Orange, NJ and a pieds-a-terre apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with membership in Temple Beth Shalom of Livingston, NJ and its Men's Club, as well B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan.  Our kids (2) and grandkids (3) live in NYC.  I grew up on Long Island and studied at the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate and continued for graduate work at UCLA and Columbia. My professional life consisted of several positions in higher education administration first in a short stint at Brooklyn College/CUNY, followed by nearly 39 years at Saint Peter's University. My professional field of expertise was experiential education, actively serving as a Board Member in both the Society for Experiential Education and the Cooperative Education & Internship Association, conducting training at annual conventions and consulting for many higher education institutions. In addition, I served the higher education community more broadly as a member of a number of accreditation teams for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Thanks so much to the FJMC leadership for selecting me for this incredible honor. In addition, I want to offer my congratulations to fellow honorees Richard and Joe who each contributed immeasurably to my engagement with and commitment to FJMC. Thanks to guys like them, and countless others at the Region and International level, I have grown so much as a man, leader and Jew. And finally, a very special thanks to my life partner Diane, whose support has enabled me to pursue not only an active professional life, but also this amazing and life-changing journey in FJMC.

Richard Gray

I currently split my time between Cape Cod, Florida and Newton, MA.  Our kids live in NYC and Newton.  I grew up in Florida and went north to MIT and Penn State to study and follow a career in mechanical engineering.  I met my wife Lillian in Boston and stayed in New England raising two wonderful daughters and enjoying the family sport of competitive small boat sailing.

Upon being invited to a Brotherhood meeting by a friend, my adventures with FJMC began at Temple Emeth in Brookline in the early 1980’s.   Soon after joining the club and participating in regional activities, a most meaningful moment was when nine men from the region showed up at my house for a shiva minyan upon the death of my Father.   I rose quickly through the club ranks and for better or worse remained president for too many terms.  After several decades at Temple Emeth my family switched to Temple Emanuel in Newton where I am currently a Brotherhood member. 

Being basically a shy techie, rising in the leadership in men’s clubbing was very important for my personal growth and personal friendships.  I made a lot of mistakes and observed a few, but kept rolling along.

Looking for opportunities to use my computer and desktop publishing skills in my men’s club involvement, I determined that I would have to bring in the news myself if I wanted something to print.  That got me involved with leaders from other clubs throughout the New England Region.  I enjoyed publishing region and retreat newspapers, fliers and handouts for many years; often printing hundreds of color pages and envelopes on my home printer. 

Early on I was ushered along by Region Presidents Joe Winokur z”l who pioneered the Yellow Candle and Mark Rudin who exuded both good will and energy.  So many of my other early friends from New England (not to mention the current New England leadership) including Bob Braitman, Arnie Miller, David Kravitz and many others who have passed, have remained comrades and partners for decades.  I appreciated being honored as Ma’Asim Tovim by the New England Region some years ago. 

The New England Region Layman’s Institute was a natural activity for me to get into for fellowship and learning as attendee, photographer, publicist, innovator and committee member.

I drifted a lot at my first FJMC Convention in the Poconos in the 1980’s but ultimately found my role in being the Convention photographer and associate of Convention Newspaper Editor Manny Dobrusin.  I made wonderful friendships with Jerry Agrest, Steve Davidoff, Harold Nissen and many others from their generations.

Rabbi Simon and I grew from fellowship to friendship over the years as we pioneered Shomrei Haaretz programming like the Solar Ner Tamid and Soy Shabbat candles.  There were lots of opportunities for being innovative.  Rabbi Simon led several FJMC missions to South America that were life changing and I ultimately led one to the south of France.  Lifelong friendships with Bruce Sicherman and Gary Smith  as well as new perspectives ensued. 

In 2001, with lots of helpers including then Region President Lester Macklin z”l, I introduced the annual New England Keeper of the Flame recognition event.  A year later I became Region President.  I had the opportunity to host an International meeting in Boston and break bread with the men in leadership.    At that meeting I remember being impressed by the skill manifested by Bob Levine in gaining consensus to set priorities.   After that I started attending International meetings as a guest. I made lots of friends over the years on various International committees and enjoyed the comradeship of generations of International leaders.    

As Convention Torch Award Chair, I introduced improved documentation and discussions of who deserved an award – some felt that Gold and Silver Awardees needed to meet rigorous standards, while I proposed that by the time a club submitted a serious Torch Award application, in their mind they have reached for excellence and deserved full recognition.  There were lots of opportunities for innovation as I rose to Program Chair of the International Convention in 2005 in Los Angeles serving with Ken Elfand.  It was a great Convention.

As International Secretary, I implemented new document organization standards and thoroughly enjoyed that role.  It was great to be followed by David Singer who doubled up on my commitment to complete, accessible, digital documentation of the activities of FJMC.  I rose to International Vice President during Mike Mills’ administration and assisted him in setting up a long term plan and management systems.

There were always awkward moments when fellow International officers were not renominated or realized that they were not going to become International President.  Many of us continued in active roles, ultimately becoming Has-Beens (as opposed to Have-Beens) and continuing as such to make significant contributions.  I particularly enjoyed promoting and establishing of the Honorary Board of Directors, implemented in the By-Laws changes under Mark Berlin.  It officially tracks and promotes the continuing involvement of past Region President’s and up. 

When the Covid pandemic arrived, I got involved in co-leading Affinity Groups in Genealogy and Financial Insights as well as participating in starting up the Photography Affinity Group. Most importantly this latest endeavor brought me into a close working partnerships with Gary Smith, Mike Mills and other current leaders, providing me continuity of FJMC fellowship and an opportunity to contribute. 

FJMC interactions have taken me to unexpected places.  My interest in the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda introduced me to very committed men from other Regions and ultimately to be a part of a major philanthropic initiative for the Abayudaya under FJMC friend Mark Gelfand.  David Freiman, Bob Watts, Rick Kramer, Michael Rosenberg and others from around the FJMC have been continuing forces in FJMC support for the Abayudaya. 

FJMC friends Gary Smith and Stephen Neustein also introduced me to Israeli startup investing with OurCrowd and EHealth Ventures limited partnerships. 

I have been a lifetime member and sometimes leader of the Foundation for Jewish Life, supporting the visions of Tom Sudow, Bob Braitman and then Gary Smith as it morphed from the Century Club.  I am a long term monthly contributor to the Friends of FJMC and a Legacy Member of the Foundation.

Pardon the nostalgia but that’s one of the joys of being an old timer who has not burned all his bridges.  I am still active in the New England Region having just re-led the region’s Keeper of the Flame event after having founded it 22 years earlier with a great group of guys, many of whom who are hanging in with me. 

Congrats to my fellow honorees Peter and Joe; each of us brought our own personal strengths to further the world of FJMC involvement.  I could not have done all this without the full support of my wife Lillian.  I guess she wanted me out of the house.

Joe Swerdlow

Joe started his Men’s Club journey at Oxford Circle Jewish Community Centre-Brith Israel after he got married in 1984. He held every possible position, but one, Club President. Each position he held at OCJCC-BI, he was excited to be installed by his mentor, Past International Vice President, and Past MAR President Michael Brassloff.

Joe has been involved with the Temple Beth Sholom’s Men’s Club in Cherry Hill, NJ, since 1991. He was the TBS Men’s Club President from 1999-2001. He is 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 along with the buying and preparing some 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-introducing Men’s Club Shabbat after several year absence of this event 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. He has served on the Executive board, has been a Vice President and has worked on many international conventions. In 2019, Joe was the chair of the International FJMC convention that was held in Toronto, Canada.  In his opinion, Joe feels that attending an international convention is the most important program a Men’s Club member can attend.

In 2018 he was awarded the MAR Regional Man of the Year. The following year at the 2019 convention Joe received the Ma’asim Tovim award.

Joe attended Riverside High School in NJ, and 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.  Joe and his wife Debbie have two children, Neil and Sara. Sara is married to Ariel, they have two adorable grandchildren, Nathan who is 6 and Asher who is 3.

Joe 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. He continues to be an active member at Temple Beth Sholom, MAR and at the International FJMC.  It is truly a labor of love for him for the past 39 years.