Two locations and a sense of shared purpose made for a singular day of fund-raising for the state’s largest Jewish federation.
Super Sunday 2013 marked a first for the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, formed earlier this year with the merger of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest and Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey.
The all-day phonathon, held in both Whippany and Scotch Plains, drew over 1,000 volunteers and raised a total of $2,377,670 for the United Jewish Appeal Campaign of Greater MetroWest NJ, more than the $2.2 million total raised by the two communities functioning separately last year.
For the organizers, the increase is a validation of the decision to combine community energies and resources.
“It was a really great day,” said Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, UJA Annual Campaign chair for GMW, who felt the increase was in part a response to October’s devastating Hurricane Sandy and the recent conflict in Israel.
“I wouldn’t want to wish a hurricane or the recent events in Israel on anyone. But we saw the community respond in a way that showed people understand why we need a local federation, a national federation system, and an annual campaign,” she said.
“People were very positive on the phone, and I have the sense people understood why we were asking them to increase their gifts, and I think people are making the best gifts they can this year.”
Volunteers staffed phone banks at the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany and at the Wilf Jewish Community Campus in Scotch Plains. Both locations also hosted family activities and community action projects in what has become an annual celebration of Jewish giving.
Jake Itzhak Bavarsky, 14, volunteered at the Aidekman campus with his brother Evan, 17, from Millstone Township in Monmouth County. They were among the newbies in the crowd — it was their first Super Sunday, and they came at the urging of their sister, who works for the federation.
“It’s a mitzva and it’s good karma to help the community. It doesn’t matter which one,” said Evan.
Jake was starting to get discouraged, but then a donor he reached raised a gift from $200 to $2,200. “That really brought up our spirits,” he said.
Also at Super Sunday for the first time was Chani Goldberg, girls’ principal at the Cheder Lubavitch of Morristown day school, who brought with her a team of students who made calls through the afternoon. “The main reason we are here is education, teaching them to give back. This is the right way to do it,” she said.
Maxine Murnick of Short Hills, president of the federation’s Women’s Philanthropy arm, said she lost count of how many Super Sundays she has attended. She spent part of the day in each location this year.
Working together for the new combined community has been “a learning experience,” she said. But she pointed out that like the former MetroWest, the former Central federation has been holding Super Sunday for many years. “And we’re all working toward the same goal,” she added.
Many of those at the Whippany location, like Murnick, have been to Super Sunday year after year — even the youngest volunteers. Talia Silbermann, seven, and her friend Allie Ramsfelder, 13, have both been coming for several years with their fathers, Ron Silbermann and Jonathan Ramsfelder, as part of a delegation from Bohrer-Kaufman Hebrew Academy of Morris County in Randolph. Ramsfelder said, “It’s just an exciting experience coming here. It’s fun to see how you can help the community,” she said.
The families injected some friendly competition into the day’s events, which included an annual challenge for the federation’s beneficiary agencies. The agency that managed to raise the most money on the day earned an additional allocation of $5,000.
“I’m hopeful Hebrew Academy will win the all-star challenge this year,” said Ramsfelder, president of the HAMC board. (The winner will be announced in the next week.)
Silbermann, vice president of the school, added that bringing their children to participate “is a way for the school to be a dugma, to set an example for the community and teach our kids that doing mitzvas and community service are part of our values.”
Across the room where volunteers sat at a bank of phones, two tables were filled with students from Montclair State University’s chapter of the Sigma Delta Tau sorority. Many had no affiliation with Judaism or a Jewish community, but said they didn’t think twice about participating. “We come every year,” said Samantha Gowe of Hackensack. “Our president’s family is involved, and the sorority was founded by Jewish women. This is a way to give back.”
For Jennifer Friedel of Rockaway, another sorority sister, the fund-raising hit a little closer to home. “They’ve been raising money to help after Hurricane Sandy. Areas near Rockaway were impacted a lot, and I know this helps a lot,” she said.
Joe Amster was making calls with his mother, Robyn Amster. It was his fifth year, but Robyn, 52, couldn’t put a number on her years of participation. She participated when she lived in Edison growing up and now lives in West Orange. “It’s important to teach the next generation to be involved in Jewish organizations and giving back,” she said.
The chairs of the Whippany operation were Alia Ramer of Maplewood and Gregg Russo of Randolph. “Super Sunday was great,” said Russo. “We raised more money than last year, which is amazing given the state of the economy.”
He continued, “It’s an important day to see our community values in action.”
Russo added, “The integration with Scotch Plains was smooth.” While some volunteers had questions about the new territory, he said, “that just presented another opportunity to explain that we are all now part of the same community.”