The first time Matthew Mutterperl was invited to join his synagogue’s brotherhood, he said no. He also said no the second time. Then came the third time.
“I felt it was time,” Mutterperl says. “And my wife pushed me into it.”
That was six years ago. In June, at a virtual Shabbat service at Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria, Mutterperl was named the brotherhood’s Man of the Year. It was recognition that he had “worked the hardest and contributed the most to Brotherhood and/or Beth El throughout the previous year,” as the synagogue puts it.
Mutterperl learned that he would be receiving the honor back in April at a brotherhood board meeting. (He’s the group’s first vice president, which includes the office of vice president for catering.) While he appreciates the gesture, he said it takes more than just one person to make all the events possible.
“I knew I do a lot for our temple, so I wasn’t shocked. It’s an honor to receive it,” he says. “Even though it’s a single award, it’s really about everyone coming and helping to make things happen. Not just one person.”
Mutterperl says he was initially reluctant to join the brotherhood because he was so busy volunteering for other synagogue activities. Since joining Beth El Hebrew Congregation 12 years ago, he’s chaired or co-chaired Beth El’s Evening with Friends, a dinner and fundraiser held at members’ homes, several times. He’s helped out on numerous religious school activities, recruited ushers for Friday night services, been a primary organizer for the annual religious school picnic and served multiple years on the Beth El board of directors, including two years as vice president.
“I always enjoy volunteering when I can so that I can help people reach a goal,” Mutterperl says. “And making a community happy is a good thing too.”
He carried that attitude with him into the Beth El Hebrew Congregation Brotherhood. “Matt can always be counted on to help serve or clean-up at Brotherhood’s catering and program events [and] co-ordinate and deliver Kiddush cups at multiple B’nei Mitzvahs,” according to an article in the Beth El Bulletin, which also noted his “easy-going personality.” For the sixth consecutive year, he chaired the brotherhood’s annual Purim carnival.
Mutterperl grew up in Rhode Island and moved to Washington in 1988 to attend George Washington University. There, he met his future wife, Emily. The couple eventually settled in Lorton, where they are raising four sons.
He worked in the security industry for 16 years, but more recently started teaching Spanish to adults in Fairfax County Public Schools.
Mutterperl says he discovered Beth El Hebrew Congregation when he was studying at George Washington University. The synagogue was close to campus, so he attended a few High Holiday services there. He became a member later, when his eldest son became a bar mitzvah.
“And I’ve always loved the community there. I think they’re always very welcoming,” Mutterperl says. “And that’s another reason I joined.”
As the hardest-working man at the synagogue, Mutterperl can’t slow down now.
If all men in a brotherhood are brothers, what does it take to be a good brother? Matthew Mutterperl, the man of the year, offers these tips.
A good brother is supportive. “A lot of [being a brother] is about supporting each other. For example, this year for Purim, everybody helped out except for one brother who was on vacation.”
A good brother is a team player. “If everybody puts in their fair share, good things can happen. We can make big events happen. It’s about reaching out to people and getting them on board, buying into things like the Purim carnival. I think this year we had 93 people volunteer. And that’s just amazing. And it’s all because you have your motivation to do something bigger than yourself. “
A good brother gets involved at his synagogue. “I have met some Jewish people that aren’t involved at all in the congregation, but I think it can be very rewarding. They may be missing out on something. A lot of younger people don’t want to associate with that kind of organization for whatever reason. But I think it can be very rewarding. They should at least give it a shot.”
A good brother shares his knowledge with others. “Helping educate people is very important. And I always feel good about teaching kids. You hope in some way to touch their lives. And for the adults, I always hoped that by teaching Spanish, they’ll get something out of it and be able to use it. I think it’s a good quality to share your
knowledge with others.”