Enthusiasm was in high supply as volunteers representing area agencies, schools, and synagogues turned out in force for the annual Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County phonathon.
The Nov. 21 event at the federation’s South River offices brought in $509,868; and while this was 2.3 percent below last year’s total, federation officials said they are optimistic that call-back nights on Nov. 29 and 30 will erase the difference and bring them closer to the $2.4 million annual campaign goal.
Federation donations support a host of educational, cultural, and social service efforts locally, in Israel, and throughout the world.
“We’re very hopeful that in the next month we’ll be able to make up that shortfall,” said associate executive director Susan Antman. “This year we were very fortunate because our cochairs represented our partnering agencies, and it is support from the community that makes the day so successful.”
That community support was evident as children with yellow shirts of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Raritan Valley in East Brunswick ran pledge cards from adult callers wearing baseball caps from Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva in Edison. Rabbis from across the denominational range lent their support along with government and community leaders.
What really stood out was the number of teens and children who pitched in.
“It was nice to see so many young people,” said Antman. “We always have a great turnout from our adult community, and we value them. But this year we had so many young kids and families.”
The day’s theme, “The Good You See Around Every Corner,” was reflected in the participation of those young people and in the number of new pledges that were made.
“We have been reaching out more and created a realization that we support all those agencies,” said Antman. “It’s all about building community.”
‘Impressed by the work’
Shawn Kilcoyne, 16, of South Brunswick was among the young people who offered his services.
“I wanted to help the Jewish community and help raise money for people who need it,” he said. “I really felt it would be a good thing to do this.”
As the day wore on, additional waves of people replaced those who left. They heard words of encouragement and support for Israel from such political leaders as Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Dist. 6), Rep. Rush Holt (D-Dist. 12), Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Dist. 7), State Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Dist. 18), NJ Assemblyman Samuel Thompson (R-Dist. 13), and Middlesex County Freeholder director Christopher Rafano.
“Lots of people are impressed by the work you do,” said Holt. “I don’t have to tell you the social fabric in New Jersey is beginning to unravel,” underscoring the importance of the social service agencies and efforts supported by federation.
Emphasizing those efforts, federation executive director Gerrie Bamira reminded the gathering that donations to the organization “are earmarked for local agencies that care for Jews in need, engage our community members, and nurture our Jewish culture, and provide much-needed support for Israel and for Jews in more than 60 countries worldwide.”
In addition to collecting pledges, volunteers were instructed to flag community members who might need help as a result of the economic downturn or other reasons so they could be contacted by Jewish Family and Vocational Service of Middlesex County.
Rabbi Dovid Komet, principal of Moshe Aaron Yeshiva High School in South River, expressed his gratitude to federation for supporting the school’s academic programming. “This is our opportunity to give back,” he said.
Echoing that theme was SSDS head of school Rabbi Stuart Saposh, who said, “This is one community and every organization is responsible for every other organization to make this community the finest it can be. This is a way of making it as strong as can be.”
RPRY principal Rabbi Shraga Gross said helping federation is like the Hebrew word “natan,” which means “give” and reads the same backward or forward; it teaches us, he said, that “the more we give the more we receive in return.”
“That’s what today is all about. Our community coming together and saying thank you to our Jewish federation for all they give and for all they do on behalf of am Yisrael.”