Monday, October 1, 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Understanding intermarriage/Keruv

With nearly half of all Jews marrying a non-Jew, few people in our Conservative congregations do not have an intermarried family member. Yet until recently, the issues surrounding intermarriage were rarely acknowledged in Conservative synagogues. Moreover, intermarried families who chose to affiliate predominantly were choosing Reform congregations where outreach programs were more common and synagogue policies often were more appealing.

The FJMC Keruv Initiative, started in 2001 by the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, serves the needs of our congregations in several ways. Keruv (which means bringing closer – drawing near) programming provides opportunities for congregants to explore issues relating to intermarriage in a safe and supportive environment. The establishment of a synagogue Keruv Committee fosters a culture change that makes the congregation more appealing to present and potential members with diverse backgrounds.

As Rabbi Charles Simon, FJMC executive director, has said: “If we are concerned with the future of Conservative Judaism and fail to act proactively, then our movement will be condemned to a diminishing future.”

The FJMC Keruv Initiative provides training for consultants and rabbis interested in providing a more welcoming and inclusive community. For more than 10 years, we have directed our training toward individual synagogues. Over 200 rabbis have attended Rabbinic Think Tanks conducted by Rabbi Simon and more than 100 lay volunteers have been trained as consultants to partner with their rabbis in this important endeavor. We are now expanding the initiative to focus on regional training during the year and more advanced training, with consultants and rabbi’s sharing ideas, at the end of the year. We are changing the culture of Conservative Judaism.

If you are interested in joining our team and bringing this most wonderful FJMC initiative to your community, please contact Doug Segerman, president of the KIO region, at, or Dr. Gary Smith, national and KIO regional Keruv co-chairperson, at

Monday, February 13, 2012

February update -- regional meeting and initiatives

Members of the Congregation Tifereth Israel Men's Club and their friends celebrate the World Wide Wrap on Feb. 5, 2012.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful winter season. The region continues to be busy.

On January 22, 2012, we had our regional meeting, followed by the first regional poker tournament. Some of the things we covered were:

1. Shomrei Ha’aretz. That includes solar ner tamids, eco-friendly place settings for meals, soy candles, reusable bottles and vegetable gardens. But the FJMC intends to continue to expand its commitment to being a steward of the land. In that vein, it has put together a committee to look at new and innovative ways to expand our programming. So we are looking for a volunteer from any club in the region to serve as our representative on this committee. Please contact me if someone in your club who is “green” sensitive would be interested.

2. By October 15, 2012, we need to identify the next Ma’asim Tovim winner from this region. Ma’asim Tovim stands for doer of good deeds. And we look to name someone who has performedsignificant work for their club and the region. Prior winners include Mike Mills, Michael Steinbuch,Gary Smith and Mark Rosenson. I am asking that regional members provide me, by August 15, with names of those that you think are worthy of this award. A committee of the prior winners will then select the honoree.

3. We went through in detail how to complete a Quality Club Award. This award is attainable for most of the clubs in our region. If a member of your club did not attend the meeting, then I will try and follow up with you within the next month to go through the process of applying for a quality club award.

4. Dr. Dale Levy explained our new Men's Health Initiative. It will involve creating a website that will be a one-stop source for information on nutrition and dieting. Based upon that, we will create a competition. Teams of 5 will compete against one another in a weight-loss competition. The goal is to have each member lose the lesser of 15 pounds or enough to reach his ideal body weight. The winning team will receive a stipend to attend the regional retreat or the Man of the Year lunch. More information will follow in the next few months.

5. Yellow Candle Program – candles can still be purchased. So please contact me if your club has not already purchased candles. Mark Ebner then spoke regarding a Holocaust Educational Garden to be built in Columbus, Ohio. The proceeds from the sale of yellow candles in Columbus (outside of sales by the Tifereth Israel and Agudas Achim Mens Clubs) will go toward this worthy project.

6. Dr. Gary Smith then took us through an excellent discussion and summary regarding the Keruv program and its benefits to your club, synagogue and the Conservative movement as a whole. If you are interested in bringing/expanding Keruv within your club please contact me.

7. Dr. Gary Smith also led a Hearing Mens Voices Program. Hearing Mens Voices is one of the best programs developed and implemented by the FJMC. You have a group of your club members get together and discuss issues which effect all of them. For example, the discussion we had was on when you had the darkest period of your life, how you came out of it and if there was a mentor to lead you. Other programs I have been involved in include, how to deal with difficult teenagers, and how to deal with aging parents. This program not only allows you to learn about other club members but allows you to learn how to address issues in your own life through discussion with people who have common issues and experiences. I would highly recommend that each club look into developing this program within your club. If you are interested, please contact me.

Looking forward, the FJMC Executive Board will be coming to Columbus, Ohio, April 27 through the 29th. Friday night services and dinner will be at Agudas Achim in Columbus, Ohio.On the 28th, one third of the group will attend Shabbat services at Tifereth, one-third at Agudas Achim and one-third at Beth Abraham in Dayton. On Sunday, we will be having a regional meeting in conjunction with the Executive Board. All club officers are invited and encouraged to attend. More details will be forthcoming.

On May 20th, we will be coming to the time trials at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Please let all of the members of your club know. We look forward to having a large group.

At the end of October or in early November, we will be having a regional retreat at Oglebay Resort & Conference Center in Wheeling, W.Va. We will have a golf outing that Friday morning just before the retreat. The retreat is an excellent opportunity for you to learn about FJMC programming and how to make your club stronger. All members of the region are invited to attend.

Talk with you soon.


Actions speak louder than words

Sometimes, actions do speak louder than words. Last week, my wife and I and a group of friends went out for Chinese food. Yes, Jewish people do go out for Chinese on days other than Christmas. Afterwards, after much deliberation, we decided to see a film at a local theater. Now, you have to understand that it’s not always easy having eight people agree on one film, but fortunately for our rather belabored decision-making process, there were only a couple of films to choose from at the time that we were all available.

We (most of us) decided to see the academy award nominated film, “The Artist." If you are not familiar with this film, it is a black and white film set in the 1920’s. It is about a silent movie star named George Valentin, who, while at the top of his career refuses to believe that changes happening in the world, will affect him. He was in denial and the changes did have a profound effect on George’s life. What makes the film so interesting is that like many great films and books and music, it is a really good story that is well-told. There was romance, conflict, humor, loss and transition. And ultimately, there was redemption. What made this film so powerful: All was accomplished without spoken words. We understand the characters, we have empathy for them, we laugh with them and also shed a tear for them by virtue of their actions, not their words.

And so, this holds true for much that we do in our lives. Certainly, words are tremendously important. So much of our tradition is hugely related to words, both written and oral. But, much of what makes us each unique is what we do, not just what we say. Certainly we reinforce this notion with our children as they are growing up. I think part of what helps define us is what we decide to do, what we become involved with and what action we take with the people and ideas that we are passionate about.

One of the really important things about the Tifereth Israel Men’s Club is that it provides an outlet or a channel to help give some direction to the things that you might want to be involved in. Whether it’s playing poker and eating pizza with a group of guys, volunteering at a Purim Carnival, learning how to lay tefillin or perhaps a new idea you’d like to explore, Men’s Club is there to help.

Always Happy to Be of Service,

Karl Rubin

President, Congregation Tifereth Israel Men's Club

Columbus, Ohio

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Installation photos

Mike Mills, incoming FJMC president, speaks about the KIO Region.

The Segerman family presented scholarships to several kids heading to college in the fall.

Immediate Past President Gary Smith presents a Man of the Year award to Rabbi Irvin Wise of Adath Israel Congregation.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Welcome to the KIO Region of FJMC

Douglas Segerman’s Speech

KIO Man of the Year Lunch

May 15, 2011

Adath Israel Congregation

Cincinnati, Ohio

I will try to be brief. But as anyone knows, once you give me a microphone and an audience, brief becomes a relative term. First, thank you so much to Adath Israel for hosting this event and to Mikey for putting together a wonderful meal.

It is nice to see such wonderful representation from the various synagogues in our region, including 2 synagogue presidents. We have the president of Ohav Shalom and of Tifereth Israel. It is also nice to have Rabbi Wise here, and congratulations again on a very deserving honor.

Second, I want to thank my family for being so encouraging. My parents, Elliot and Rose, set a wonderful example on how to give back to your synagogue and your community. That is why my family has always embraced that example and have been involved in our synagogues and in encouraging Jewish education. So, I am especially glad that my siblings could be here today.

To my wife, who is always supportive of me – thank you so much for letting me take this opportunity. She was patient when I was President of the Tifereth Israel Men’s Club for two years She has always encouraged me to be involved in our synagogue and community and I know that I could not take on this two year commitment without her support and love. And thank you to my children – Jack and Emma – for agreeing to share their daddy . Although, Jack was a surprisingly tough negotiator on this point. Perhaps another lawyer in the making?

Congratulations to Mark Rosenson and to our Man of the Year award winners. You all do tremendous work for your synagogues and this organization would not be what it is today without your service and generosity of spirit. On a personal note, thank you to Mark for all of your advice and support over the last 8 years. You have provided me with invaluable insight into how to successfully lead a club and a region.

I always believe that before we can look forward in life, we must look back. The gentlemen that have led this region over the past decade have done an amazing job. First, I would like to acknowledge Leon Pollack, David Dombar, Frank Kasdan, Alan Segal and Mike Mills. These gentlemen were integral in the formation of the region nearly 20 years ago and laid the ground work for its success.

To Michael Steinbach, Mark Rosenson, and Gary Smith. It has been a pleasure to serve with each of you. Through your energy and commitment to FJMC, you have expanded the region’s activities (such as this Man of the Year Lunch), brought in new clubs and created a line of leadership that will move us into the future. You have truly “involved Jewish Men in Jewish life” and I know that I can count on you as advisors and participants in our programming in the years to come. Which really is another way of saying that we don’t believe that Past President is synonymous with “no longer involved”.

And congratulations to Mike Mills. The International FJMC is about to learn what Adath Israel and this region have known for decades – that Mike Mills is an exceptional leader who inspires those underneath him to be better and to want to do more.

Having Mike as the international President gives us a wonderful opportunity to be highlighted as a region. We can and should be leaders within the FJMC and Mike will be able to hold up this region as a leader on how to initiate innovative ideas and programs. One such example is the Youth of the Year Award. which celebrates our youth, involves them in our programs and shows them how exciting the FJMC is. So when they graduate from college and join a conservative synagogue they will be interested in being involved in their Men’s Club. So while I congratulate Samantha, Lainey, Becca and Michelle on their wonderfully deserved award, does anyone . else find it a little bit ironic that the winners of this first ever award are all women?

We will also continue to be leaders over the next two years in our programs and ideas.

The FJMC has made Shomrei Ha’aretz – steward of the land – a key initiative. As some of you many know, one of our own, the Adath Israel Brotherhood, in conjunction with the school created a program for a garden that is ecofriendly. The students learn how to be stewards of the land while running a garden and donating the fruits of their labor to local food pantries. Four years ago at the International Convention in Chicago, the outgoing International President, Dr. Bob Braitman, looked out over the crowd and said I see a lot of overweight and out of shape men and I am concerned for you, challenging the membership to become healthier. Again we take that challenge seriously and will be at the forefront of that movement. We listened to Bob’s advice and as far as I know, we will have the first Vice President for Health Care . I got Dale to say yes again. And we will work on health programs that we can pass on to the clubs to get Men Healthier.

One of the cornerstones of any strong organization is communication and letting others know what’s going on within the group. Each club is different and what works at one club will not necessarily work at other. But each club will benefit from knowing what others clubs are doing. If one club has a great programming idea then we should all know about it. So I intend to have a regional website where we can share information and ideas between the various clubs. Along that vein, every 3 months I am going to ask the Club Presidents to provide Bill Chronister with a calendar of future events as well as a list of activities that their club has completed during that time period. That will be put on the website so that other clubs can look at and find ideas for programming that are successful. Depth and breadth of programming is critical to increasing membership and making clubs more vitale. Through this process we will make each of our clubs stronger.

And right now I challenge our clubs to achieve something quite attainable, something that will position us as the best and brightest region in FJMC, and something that no other region has achieved – that within two years, each of our clubs receives quality club award status and submit a torch award application. The quality club award is given to a club which meets established criteria at the International, Regional and local levels. The criteria also are a blueprint for a club to follow in planning its yearly programming.

You are members of your club, but you are also members of a bigger organization – The Federation of Jewish Men’s Club We are the Mens’ Group of the Conservative Movement. And there are benefits to membership. We will be there to help if you have questions on how to achieve a quality club award and submit a torch award and we will assist in any way possible. Each club will have a mentor assigned to them – either myself, a current officer or an ex-Regional President. That mentor will help you with ideas on membership, succession and programming. Each club will have the support necessary from this region to be stronger and better able to succeed in the future. No club should feel that they are alone and do not have the support of the KIO region or the FJMC.

We will also work to expand this region by trying to bring in unaffiliated clubs in Louisville, Toledo, Akron and Indianapolis. Truly making this more of a KIO region.

We will also work very hard to have more social events at the regional level to bring everyone together. While we can talk on conference calls and send out e-mails, nothing allows us to share ideas or build strong, personal relationships more than meeting in person. . We start next week with an Indians/Reds game in Cleveland. We will have a golf outing on Labor Day in Zanesville. We will have a regional poker tournament in Columbus in January/February. We will go down to Kentucky for a Bourbon tasting. And perhaps we can go as a group to the time trials at the Indianapolis 500. This is a big region, but not so big that we cannot get together for social activities in each part of the region.

A great teacher once told me that every challenge provides us with an opportunity to learn and grow. These next two years provide us with excellent opportunities for growth in our clubs and our region. And I look forward to working with our International President, our regional officers, club Presidents, and officers and members in that growth. Thank you.