Near the end of the session at which she provided training for Super Sunday volunteers of all ages, Paula Joffe had a message for those in her group.
“I said, ‘I don’t know some of you, but I do know that I’d like to be your friend,’” Joffe, director of Major Gifts for the Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks, told NJJN. “In my short time with them, I could see what a dedicated, positive group of people they were. It made me feel good to know our community is in such good hands.”
Good hands, indeed. The annual Super Sunday phonathon, a daylong event held Nov. 20 at Rider University in Lawrenceville, attracted hundreds of volunteers and raised an estimated $200,000, well in excess of the goal of $150,000.
“This is the essence of what our community is all about,” said campaign vice president Karen Anderson of Lawrenceville. “Look around the room, and you’ll see people of different generations and various levels of involvement coming together to raise funds and make the Jewish community stronger. I’m excited to be part of it.”
Federation executive director Andrew Frank noted that Super Sunday cochairs Judy Bortnick of Princeton Junction and Penny Pierce of Plainsboro — both in their second consecutive year in the position — saw to it that the day was about more than making phone calls to prospective contributors.
“I like to tell people how they put the ‘fun’ back in fund-raising,” Frank said. “This isn’t just a fund-raising event. It’s a celebration, a place where entire families can come, enjoy themselves, and learn about the community.”
A wide array of activities — coordinated by the Jewish Community Center of PMB — were offered to attract all segments of the region’s Jewish community. There were booths sponsored by Jewish community agencies — Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County, Greenwood House, and the area’s Board of Rabbis and Principals Council, among others — a Hanukka bazaar, hands-on tzedaka projects, hallah baking, movies, contests, and, of course, plenty of kosher food.
Federation distributed tote bags and encouraged folks to fill them with nonperishable items to be donated to the JF&CS Kosher Food Pantry.
At the Super Sunday book fair — held in recognition of Jewish Book Month — authors presented and signed their works. Artie Bennett, executive copy editor for Random House Children’s Books, was there to talk about his The Butt Book, a fancifully illustrated comic consideration of the bottom.
Marlton resident Rabbi Ilene Schneider presented her book, Chanukah Guilt — about Rabbi Aviva Cohen, a 50-something, twice-divorced rabbi living a rather uneventful life in south Jersey who gets involved in a murder mystery. “I’m happy to be here, because this would appear to be a perfect venue for me,” said Schneider. “If people are interested in Jewish issues — and hopefully Jewish books — they probably attend Super Sunday.”
Shuttle busses were on hand to provide tours of the Jewish Community Campus of Princeton Mercer Bucks, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012. The new campus, located in West Windsor — approximately 15 minutes from Rider — will house the Betty and Milton Katz JCC, the federation, the JF&CS, and the Jewish Community Foundation of Princeton Mercer Bucks.
“We’re trying to ensure that everyone realize that this is our community,” Bortnick explained. “Let’s talk to each other. Do your Hanukka shopping here while your kids are immersing themselves in different activities. Visit the book fair. Learn about our agencies and what they have to offer. Take a shuttle bus to the Jewish Community Campus.
“Being Jewish is about taking care of one another and enjoying the opportunity to spend time together,” she continued. “Those are the kinds of feelings we want Super Sunday to convey.”
Two of the many young people at the event were Bortnick’s children, Laura, 17, and Andrew, 15. Those two, along with their friend, 16-year-old Michael Stern of Plainsboro, secured roughly $20,000 in donations at last year’s annual phonathon. This time around, they left a USY conference early in order to take part in Super Sunday.
“To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult of a decision,” Michael admitted. “I personally love making phone calls at Super Sunday. I especially enjoy getting a donation from somebody who’s never made a gift before. I guess I’m no different from everyone else here today. It makes me feel good to help the Jewish community.”
Rather than make calls while seated at a table in a room with the other volunteers, Michael and Laura strategically placed themselves on the floor of a quiet hallway, leaning against a wall, armed with cell phones and a stack of cards containing names and telephone numbers.
“We feel like it’s much more personal this way,” Laura said. “It makes it easier to really converse with the person you’re calling. I’ve found that the more interactive you are and the more attention you can give to the person you’re speaking to, the more likely it is that he or she will respond in a positive way.”
Like his sister, Andrew is a Super Sunday veteran. He first attended the event while in kindergarten, and he’s been back every year since. This year was the fourth he’s spent soliciting gifts on the phone.
“I tell people how the federation is the backbone of the community,” he said. “I tell them that if you’ve ever used the services of an agency such as the JCC or the Jewish Family and Children’s Service, then you’ve been touched by the organized Jewish community. When somebody responds to your message and gives you money, it’s so rewarding.”
Concluded Frank: “On a day like this, it becomes obvious that our Jewish community has plenty of hope for the future.”