Thomas Sudow, past president of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs and director of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship at Ashland University, knows adapting is crucial.
As FJMC president from 2019 to 2021, Sudow oversaw the organization during one of the most challenging times in history. After the country shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 13, 2020, Sudow said the FJMC had virtual programs up and running by March 17.
As the president of an organization that depends upon people meeting in person, Sudow said he knew it had to be agile to continue to touch people’s lives during a time of loneliness.
He said “an unbelievable team of people came together” to run over 300 programs for 4,000 people. The FJMC also made sure the group called every one of their member clubs and made sure that they and their members were doing OK during the pandemic.
“You can’t wait for the world to come to you,” he said. “You have to understand the problem, and then go find solutions for it. I think we also learned the value of people coming together and how we had to adapt in a lot of different ways as a community.”
Sudow has served with the FJMC for over 20 years in different capacities and created different programs. He said a major accomplishment in his volunteer life was working with Earl Lefkowitz to run Jewish community baseball outings, which brought almost 2,000 Jewish people to Cleveland Indians games in the 1990s. That led to being able to work with the Indians to create kosher concession stands – only the second in Major League Baseball – and the stand continued for over 20 years.
In the early part of his professional life, Sudow served as a professional in Jewish organizations. He said he raised close to half-a-billion dollars to support Jewish causes. During the last more than 20 years, he has worked with a number of Israeli businesses creating new technologies and helped bring those technologies to market. He was part of the team that created the Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center, which was funded by a $60 million grant from the state of Ohio. They were able to grow that $60 million into over $1.9 billion in add-on investments and merger and acquisitions.
They created over 1,200 jobs, brought over 30 companies to Ohio in the cardiovascular space, and funded over 56 different companies, of which 40 made it to market.
Sudow grew up in Stevens Point, Wis. But when his parents, Gertrude and Noah Sudow, died while he was young, he moved to Chicago and lived with his cousin and her family. He was raised by Joy and Richard Sager, who were heavily involved in the community, as were his natural parents. From being involved in synagogue life to Hadassah, to creating one of the leading Jewish day schools, Sudow said he had great role models for Jewish community involvement.
“It is not a coincidence that my sister, Cantor Laureate Sarah Sager, and brother-in-law, Marc Freimuth, have also been recognized with this (CJN 18 Difference Makers) award,” Sudow said.
“I think it’s an ethic that we’ve grown up with and transmitted to our children,” he said. “I watch my children who are active in the Jewish community where they live. And my grandchild starting to get involved in the community. So, it’s just something that’s ingrained. It’s part of the DNA of our family.”