“Mentors, a lot of mentors, taught me how to be this way,” said Bob Clayton. This May, Clayton was honored with the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s annual Mesel Wieder Mensch Award.

How did Bob Clayton become a mensch? “Mentors, a lot of mentors, taught me the importance of doing for others,” he said.

On May 17, Bob Clayton was honored with the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s annual Mesel Wieder Mensch Award. The occasion was the Silver Circle and Create Your Jewish Legacy VIP reception, held in advance of the Jewish Federation’s 127th Annual Meeting.

When asked what the word mensch means to him, Clayton said, “To me, it’s somebody who helps others anytime, anywhere, for anything. And doesn’t look for any recognition.”

The Mesel Wieder Mensch Award was established in 1999 by the friends of Mesel Wieder, who set up an endowment to honor his memory. The award was created to celebrate those in Cincinnati’s Jewish community, who, like Wieder, exemplified the meaning of the word mensch. Weider survived the Holocaust in Ukraine; was extremely involved in Adath Israel Congregation; showed his dedication to education through volunteering for Rockwern Academy’s L’dor V’dor program; and frequently attended Holocaust & Humanity Center programs. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 96.

Scot Perlman, of the Community Property & Maintenance Committee, nominated Clayton on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and Mayerson JCC, in addition to Clayton’s many accomplishments, “Bob’s volunteer hours reflect a serious commitment to the community. In addition to losing sleep when a matter isn’t being addressed properly or in a timely manner, I would guess that Bob works close to 20 hours a week as a volunteer to keep the community’s facilities running in good order.” 

Bob Clayton’s paid work as Director of Community and Property Management includes serving as liaison between SAFE Cincinnati, the community-wide initiative to improve Jewish Cincinnati’s readiness to deal with security threats and natural disasters, as well as property maintenance consultant for many of our 37 community partners.

He has lived in Amberley his entire life. His wife is Hildy Clayton (born Cohen), an active volunteer in her own right. They have two children, Stefanie (married to Jonathan Swiger) and Joshua, and one grandchild, Oliver Bernard.

When asked how it felt to win the award, Clayton shared, “Very humbling. I’m thrilled and honored. I could be sharing this with many others in our community.”

Clayton’s own mentors include his parents and Hildy’s parents. “Hildy’s dad [Philip T.] was the ultimate mensch and was involved in many community organizations” he said. Clayton’s father-in-law’s contributions included being one of the founding board members of the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati.

What made Clayton step up his volunteering so significantly? Smiling, he said: “I am retired. I told Brian Jaffee I need something to do.” After spending his entire adult life volunteering for The Red Cross and the boards of the Mayerson JCC, Wise Temple, Cincinnati Hillel, and Jewish Vocational Services, Clayton told Jaffee, “I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and do more.” Jaffee, CEO of the Jewish Foundation, gave Clayton his first project: rebuild the Cincinnati Hebrew Day School Amberley campus building — applying his work expertise in construction and project management. Clayton has continued giving back ever since. “I do it because it’s the right thing to do. I like doing it. I like helping people.”

Clayton has been doing this work at full speed for the last ten years. One of the things he is most proud of is helping with the remodel of the Federation offices. “I was here throughout the entire pandemic.” After a moment’s thought, however, he added, “Using my business skills to get the project done properly, cost-effectively providing savings to our community, that makes my day! It’s very rewarding to help. We have 37 community partners here and I’m very involved with many of them on a day-to-day basis.”

He shared his advice for younger generations, “I would tell them to work hard at their day job, budget time to contribute to your community, and be sure to find time for yourself and family.”

With his busy schedule he still finds time to enjoy his hobbies: hunting, fly-fishing, and woodworking, to name a few.

Clayton has no intention of retiring from his second career any time soon. “The committee was just given a new five-year grant by the Jewish Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati for the community partners capital improvement maintenance work.” One look at Bob Clayton and it’s clear that this mensch’s second retirement is a long way off.

Bob’s dedication to our whole community is a testament to the values we hope others will emulate and to which we can all aspire. He has done incredible things for our community property owners for many years without any expectation or fanfare.