Like lighting candles on a menora, one after another, the organizers of this year’s Super Sunday phonathon –— scheduled for Dec. 4 — are kindling the different aspects of the day of major fund-raising.
If the shamash — the candle that lights the others — is the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey’s annual campaign, the day’s other activities are designed to shed light on what those funds fuel: community building, helping people in need, support for Israel, and Jewish culture and education.
At their second-to-last group meeting, on Nov. 7, the Super Sunday committee finalized plans for some activities and were still debating others, still on the lookout for supporters and corporate sponsors. The invitations had just gone out in the mail trumpeting “It’s your call! Do your part” and “Super Sunday: We’re all connected.” Responses were already coming in.
“The date is coming up so fast,” said Meredith Levy, who is cochairing the event with fellow Scotch Plains resident Sandy Sobel. They made it clear their goal is to draw as many people as possible. “We’re all about volunteer recruitment,” Levy said.
She and Sobel, leading the discussion with Debbie Rosenwein, the federation’s director of planning and allocations, shared their ideas and challenged members to come up with their own. Their aim is to have the Wilf Jewish Community Campus in Scotch Plains buzzing with activity, from start to finish, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The committee strategized about phone techniques — and the crucial question of how to inspire generosity without making people uncomfortable. They described mitzva projects parents and kids can do together, and an Israel advocacy program — with a talk by Jerusalem community activist Lisa Barkan, who receives federation funding — as well as fun activities, from magic and crafts to Israeli cooking and games.
Sobel, who also chaired Super Sunday in 2003, stepped in when the person originally slated for the position had to step aside for personal reasons. “I’m really happy to be doing it again,” she said. “I have experience and I’m glad I can help. There are so many families right here in New Jersey who need our assistance, and I think people are really responding to that.”
Levy, who was a vice chair last year, said, “The Central community covers such a broad area — geographically and in terms of the range of people — and this is a great chance for us to bring everyone together, as families. They can come to have fun, and — if they aren’t involved with federation — find out what it’s all about. They don’t have to commit to anything; this is their chance to see what interests them and what they’d enjoy doing.”
Both have their own families involved; Levy’s two young children and Sobel’s two teenagers helped out in previous years and plan to again. Rosenwein said they hope to see a lot of young people participating. Those in high school and older can call donors, and for younger kids there are all kinds of ways to help out. Josh Simon, a junior, was at the meeting with his mother, Holly, a past Super Sunday chair. He promised to bring in as many other teens as he can.
For the little kids and their parents, there will be a reading by Jacqueline Jules, one of the authors whose books have been chosen by PJ Library, the federation-sponsored program that provides free reading material and music to hundreds of area children. The organizers are also hoping to have a photographer shooting portraits that will give families a memento of the day.
Training is offered for all those volunteering to help out, said Rosenfield, including for people who will be making calls and those who prefer to serve in other ways. Everyone who signs up in advance will receive in the mail information on federation and a video to inspire them.
As a cost-saving measure, there won’t be new Super Sunday T-shirts this year, but those attending are encouraged to wear one they have from past phonathons. “Perhaps we’ll give a prize to the person with the ‘most historic’ T-shirt,” Levy suggested.
Another suggestion came from longtime federation activist Elyse Deutsch. She urged people with time-limited store gift cards to act quickly and use them to buy clothes or books or toys to contribute to the collection for Jewish Family Service of Central NJ. In addition to those, there will be a collection of non-prescription, current, unopened medications and — as usual — a blood drive.
For now, the committee’s sights are set on spreading the word. Nov. 18 is “Federation Shabbat,” a time when rabbis are encouraged to highlight the work that federation does. The organizers are hoping they will also encourage their congregants to participate in Super Sunday. Teen volunteers will be doing their part too at food collection drives outside local supermarkets.
For more information on Super Sunday or to register as a volunteer, call 908-889-5335 or go to www.JewishJerseyCentral.org.