Despite the gloomy weather on Dec. 12, nearly 800 volunteers came to Super Sunday, the biggest phonathon of the year for United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ. All together, they raised $1,776,867, topping last year’s totals by more than $100,000.
“Super Sunday turned out to be an electrifying day filled with great energy and an enormous outpouring of support from the MetroWest community,” said UJC MetroWest president Gary Aidekman.
The final hours of the day, designated for teens and college students, were perhaps the busiest. With over 150 volunteers packed in, there were more people than phones and chairs.
“Watching and listening to these young people really inspires us to keep going,” said Aidekman.
Volunteers throughout the day included people of all ages, from middle schoolers to seniors.
Among the younger volunteers were 12-year-old friends Talia Ramer and Veronica Slater, who were joined by their friend Cara Lisser at the phone bank.
“Every year my best friend Veronica and I count down the days to Super Sunday because we love calling and asking for money for Israel,” said Talia. This is their fourth year.
A highlight of the day was the presentation of the Muriel Walter Volunteer of the Year Award to JCC MetroWest Margulies Senior Center members. More than 30 seniors were on hand to receive the award from Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, immediate past president of Women’s Philanthropy. After receiving the award, the group stayed for several hours, diligently making phone calls and writing thank-you letters to UJA donors.
A trio from Moishe House in Hoboken made the rounds of Super Sundays around the area, with stops in Hoboken, Whippany, and Paramus. “We want to support our local Jewish communities,” said Joshua Einstein, who came with David Rosen and Shira Huberman. “MetroWest is nearby, and it’s an important Jewish community. Many people who live in Hoboken grew up in the MetroWest area and we should come out and support the community,” he said. (Hoboken does not belong to a particular Jewish federation area and is considered independent.)
Asked if it was exhausting to go to so many events, Huberman said, “No, it’s super on Super Sunday!”
Of course, there were plenty of adults on hand, including people like Merle Blackman of Randolph, who has come for more years than she can remember. Originally from South Africa, she said, “I always come to Super Sunday because I feel an obligation to support the Jewish community. I came here from another country and this community has been very good to my family. We must give back when we can.”
Dr. Josh Schor, medical director of Daughters of Israel senior center in West Orange, making calls next to Blackman, said, “What UJC MetroWest does for Daughters of Israel is tremendous. The more I work in medical care here, the more I realize how different we are from the average nursing home. We take a lot of people that other nursing homes turn down because of cost reasons. Daughters really has pledged to take care of people in the community who otherwise couldn’t afford the care.”
Plenty of young families came as well, taking advantage of the mitzva fair run by CareLink, a partnership of UJC, Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, and JCC MetroWest. They stuffed teddy bears for the Rachel Coalition, sorted and wrapped toiletries for homeless shelters, and brought and sorted products for two area food pantries.
Lori Rubin of Livingston was drawn to Super Sunday by the family activities, particularly the interactive story time offered by the PJ Library, where she brought her daughters, five-year-old Leah and two-year-old twins Elisheva and Aviva. After the book activity, they headed into the gym, where Leah had a chance to craft a paper flower that ultimately became part of a bouquet presented to residents of the Lester Senior Housing Community in Whippany.
The youngest members of the community on the campus, like the Rubin girls, rocked out with Mama Doni and the Mama Doni Band, dancing and singing their hearts out. Mama Doni, aka Doni Zasloff Thomas, is a Montclair mother of two whose Jewish kids’ rock music has exploded onto the scene in the last few years.
Local politicians joined the festivities throughout the day. They included U.S. Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen and Leonard Lance; State Sens. Thomas Kean, Richard Codey, and Joseph Pennacchio; NJ Assembly members Jon Bramnick, John McKeon, Tom Giblin, Mila Jasey, and staff from the office of Gary Chiusano; Freeholders Pat Sebold of Essex County and Angel Estrada of Union County; Livingston Councilman Gary Schneiderman; and Mayors V. Nelson Vaughan of Chatham, Arlene Johnson of Livingston, Victor DeLuca of Maplewood, James Sandham of Montville, Kirsten Becker of Newton, and Joseph Tempesta of West Caldwell; Livingston Deputy Mayor Rudy Fernandez; and Essex County Sherriff Armando Fontoura.
This year, Super Sunday was chaired by the team of Mindy Kahn, David Boyko, and Mark Glajchen.
“It was great to see all the families with young children at the mitzva fair and Mama Doni concert,” said Kahn. “There were a lot more kids and families at Super Sunday than I remember seeing in the past.”
“As always, I think that Super Sunday is the community’s effort and the community’s accomplishment,” said Boyko. “I was both very pleased that we were able to raise more gifts this year than last, because each dollar is an opportunity to change someone’s life, and very pleased that we were able to create a great spirit of community or ruach at the event all day Sunday, with people coming together to make calls, to perform mitzvas, to hear a PJ Library book reading, to hear the great performance by the Mama Doni Band, and just to come together — despite the wind and rain.”
“Our future truly looks bright,” said Aidekman. “The MetroWest community should be very proud of itself for showing such amazing support.”