Despite the continued gloomy economic picture, an infusion of youthful spirit and a matching grant pushed the Super Sunday fund-raising total of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County more than $100,000 past its goal.
“The entire day was inspiring,” said executive director Gerrie Bamira about the Jan. 12 call-athon at the federation offices in South River.
In a year in which federation for the first time held two Super Sundays, the fund-raising total was $654,998, up from last year’s total of $575,405, which itself rose 13 percent from two years ago. It also topped the federation’s own projected goal of $545,000.
The total included $35,000 from the Marion and Norman Tanzman Foundation, which matched donations up to $1,000 for those who gave for the first time or hadn’t given for two years or longer.
Callback nights to reach those who weren’t home were scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 27 and 28, after NJJN went to press.
Linda Benish of Monroe, who served as cochair of the day with her husband, Allan, pointed out that federation supports the community and its institutions in good times and bad.
“When you make these phone calls you hear how people are hurting,” she said. “If we can make people’s lives a little better that’s what we need to do as a community.”
While the first Super Sunday, held Nov. 24 at Douglass College Center in New Brunswick, featured entertainment for children and other activities, the second event was devoted solely to calling.
“I made calls myself,” Bamira said, “and when I spoke to one elderly lady in Monroe, she said, ‘Of course I’ll give to federation. You helped pay for my meals-on-wheels when I was sick and couldn’t get out.’”
The calling stopped briefly for memorial prayers and lighting of a yahrtzeit candle in memory of the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who had died earlier that day.
“Sharon worked his entire life for the unity of the Jewish people,” Bamira told the gathering. “He was closely connected with Jewish communities around the world and acutely aware of their needs and aspirations. In all his leadership roles, and especially as prime minister of the Jewish state, Sharon engaged with Jewish communities across the Diaspora.”
More than 100 volunteers, including 26 teens involved with federation’s JTeam teen philanthropy, and those who received grants to travel to Israel or go to IMPACT:DC Leadership Training, came to make calls.
Jennifer Greenberg, 17, of Edison, remembering her Shabbat in Jerusalem during her trip, rallied the teens. “Upon my return home, I realized that the federation grant I received not only let me travel to Israel, but it connected me to the land and the people,” she said. “After experiencing my favorite part of the week in my favorite city in Israel, I’m much more willing to support, defend, and return to Israel in the future,” Jennifer said.
“Thank you to federation for helping to establish this connection for me and other teens to the Land of Israel.”
Hannah Sessler, 15, of Edison is a JTeam member who attended leadership training in Washington. She called raising money for federation “an amazing feeling.”
“The work that they do is so admirable, and they do everything in their power to help the Jewish community,” she said. “Clearly, others think so as well. I had one man who I called today tell me, ‘It’s an honor to donate to federation.’”
Federation associate executive director Susan Antman said the teens brought a sense of “enthusiasm, passion, and inspiration,” that motivated both callers and donors.
Others pitching in included local rabbis.
“As part of the rabbinic community I work closely with federation to ensure the entire Jewish community is well-served,” said Rabbi Jay Weinstein of Orthodox Young Israel of East Brunswick. “It’s my honor to help federation, which I know will put the money to good use.”
Said Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer of Reform Temple B’nai Shalom in East Brunswick: “It’s important to support the Jewish community through federation to ensure the needy will always be helped and supported.”