Super Sunday’s fundraising and activism

More than 450 people took part in fundraising and community service activities Feb. 10 as part of Super Sunday, during which The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Jewish Federation Valley Alliance raised $1,942,736 as part of its annual fundraising campaign.

“Super Sunday was an enormous success,” Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said in an e-mail sent out to the Los Angeles community. “Together we raised [nearly $2 million], which will make a significant impact on our Federation’s work caring for Jews in need, engaging with the community and ensuring the Jewish future.”

A yearly tradition, this installment of Super Sunday represented several firsts, including one new location, a more targeted phone-banking strategy, greater transparency, more experienced fundraisers and the use of cell phones instead of landlines. 

Still, the basics of Super Sunday — phone-a-thons in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley to raise funds for The Federation — did not change.

“We like to tell people: You’re not raising money for [people like] yourself, you’re raising money for the people The Federation helps,” said James Felton, Valley Alliance campaign co-chair. “And it’s easy to fundraise when you’re thinking about those people.” 

Approximately 225 individuals signed up to be callers this year, said Mitch Hamerman, senior vice president of marketing at The Federation. 

Money raised during Super Sunday benefits Holocaust survivors, college students needing tuition assistance, the elderly, the hungry and others. It also funds programs that fall under the auspices of The Federation’s initiatives related to engaging the community, ensuring the Jewish future and caring for Jews in need.

Federation volunteers picked more than 3,500 pounds of fresh produce for donation to local food pantries.  Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

As usual, the event extended across the city, with Federation’s Wilshire Boulevard headquarters serving as a venue for an all-day phone-a-thon. For the first time, Temple Judea in Tarzana served as the Valley site with phone-banking taking place in the sanctuary. Super Sunday in the Valley used to be held at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills, but The Federation sold that property to New Community Jewish High School.

In the past, Federation reports of how much it raised on Super Sunday included money that had been donated to it throughout the year. This year, The Federation’s figure was limited strictly to what was raised exclusively on the one day. This was meant to increase transparency about Super Sunday, Sanderson said.

Additionally, phone-bankers limited calls to first-time donors and those who have contributed less than $5,000 in the past. As for those who have donated more than $5,000, The Federation will take the time to develop personal relationships with them, Sanderson said. 

Making calls from a new location did not appear to hinder Valley volunteers. Spirits high, volunteers such as Joel Volk placed calls from their cell phones and made their pitches.

“Are you interested in supporting The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles? It’s really about having a cohesive community here in Los Angeles,” the Thousands Oaks resident said to one of the dozens of people he called on Sunday. 

Cell phones were used instead of telephones because it was not cost-effective to bring the phones in, Sanderson said. Phone chargers for all kinds of cell phones were available to volunteers; donated cell phones were on hand for those who did not have their own, and volunteers who preferred to keep their phone numbers private dialed a special code before making each call.

Federation volunteers spruced up Friendship Circle’s new campus and helped prepare for its upcoming Purim party. Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Rhonda Seaton, communications director at the Valley Alliance, said Super Sunday has taken a quality-over-quantity approach over the past couple of years, reaching out to fewer — albeit more experienced — volunteers to make phone calls. This year’s phone-bankers included Federation lay-leaders and members of Federation networking and philanthropic groups, such as Young Adults of Los Angeles (YALA), Jewish Business Leaders and the Sylvia Weisz Women’s Campaign.

Volunteers used Instagram, an online photo-sharing tool, to take photographs of themselves placing calls, and they updated their Twitter feeds throughout the day.

“We want to connect with people in every way possible,” Sanderson said.

Sanderson traveled back and forth between the Wilshire Boulevard and Valley sites. Around 1:30 p.m., he and Richard Sandler, executive vice president of The Federation, arrived at Temple Judea just as David Melnick and Marcy Tajkef, co-chairs of the Valley Alliance Super Sunday, announced Valley phone-bankers had raised $346,693. The highest fundraisers will receive tickets to a taping of “American Idol,” an Amazon Kindle and other prizes, the co-chairs said.

The phone-a-thon is just one part of Super Sunday. This was the third consecutive Super Sunday that included a service component, and it is critical to The Federation’s mission, said Neuriel Shore, community and government affairs manager at The Federation.

“What’s The Federation there for? It’s there as a convener; it’s there to bring together the Jewish community in a way that community services does,” Shore said.

In the morning, Shore said he was expecting 250 people to participate in community service projects organized by The Federation throughout Los Angeles County. At one of these projects, volunteers, under the guidance of Food Forward, picked oranges at a grove adjoining a private residence in Agoura Hills. The nonprofit harvests the fruit on homeowners’ trees and donates the bounty to food pantries and food banks. 

Jeff Silverman, a 47-year-old sales manager from Woodland Hills, was happy to participate. As opposed to something insular — like “knitting yarmulkes for young Jews in Brooklyn” — Food Forward helps a broad population, he said. It also helps create community. Growing up in Highland, Ind., Silverman was the only Jewish student at his high school. Days like these help him connect with Jews in Los Angeles, he said.

Community service projects appealed to a variety of interests. Volunteers helped the Friendship Circle, an organization for families with special-needs children, prepare for its Purim party and beautify its new campus on Robertson Boulevard; others took a bus to a military base in Los Alamitos, where they prepared lunch for and shared a meal with military personnel; and in celebration of Purim and Presidents Day, YALA created patriotic-themed mishloach manot (“sending of portions”) to give to Jewish veterans.

Additionally, more than 200 high school students gathered at Temple Judea to do arts projects, assemble bags of food for Jewish Family Service’s SOVA Community Food and Resource Program and learn about global issues. Sherut L’Olam, which provides environmental and social justice education to teenagers, led the initiative.

Super Sunday may be about soliciting donations, but it is also about letting people know The Federation is there for them, Melnick said. When he spoke to someone on the phone who was unemployed, he told him about Federation programs that might be able to help. Given that he was doing this inside of a sanctuary, Melnick said it felt like “sacred work in a way that I hadn’t anticipated.”

‘Sunday’ Aids Argentina

With Super Sunday approaching March 3, The Journal spoke with John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, to get his impressions on this year’s daylong phone-a-thon.

Fishel, who hopes to raise another $3 million to $5 million in the coming year in response to crises in Israel and Argentina, just returned from a six-day stay in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where he met with the Jewish Agency for Israel to discuss how to best address both situations. Fishel also visited various Federation agencies and projects based in Israel. Since the intifada began, The Federation has been active in supporting services that aid victims and emergency professionals affected by Middle East violence.

Jewish Journal: What will be the big difference between this year’s Super Sunday and those of years past?

John Fishel: You’ve got a major Jewish world crisis in Argentina, where there’s an enormous need, and the federations are being asked to react quickly and generously. With Argentina, that means in terms of both making aliyah and providing relief to people who need food and shelter.

JJ: What did you see on your trip to Israel this time around?

JF: A very heightened concern for community, and veritably no tourism. They’re really experiencing some significant financial problems, high unemployment, over 10 percent. There are almost daily attacks and violence. Although you don’t physically see it, you feel it. They need to feel that we’re with them.

There are a lot of incidents occurring. But I saw nothing in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv that makes us have to fear for our lives. It’s a question of not only giving, but being there. I can’t think of a time when people over there were happier to see people from the Diaspora. The hotels and restaurants there are just empty.

JJ: Are there any indications to believe that the residual effect of the Jewish Community Centers crisis and the way unfolding events were perceived by the community and by the press will affect Super Sunday contributions?

JF: No, I don’t believe they will. I’m sure that there’ll be people who, as always, will question supporting us, but the vast, vast majority of people understand it’s a campaign that touches many Jews here and abroad. They believe in the system, and they’ll contribute accordingly.

JJ: What are some of the changes and new directions that we can look forward to in 2002 from The Jewish Federation?

JF: We would like to see if we can facilitate a more extensive and successful effort to reach teens here in town. We’re beginning to talk to a bunch of organizations in town to see how best to expedite this.

JJ: With the dissolution of ACCESS, what will happen in terms of young leadership?

JF: ACCESS has not been dissolved. The staff has been reassigned. You’ve got multiple entities under The Federation auspices — entertainment division, legal, apparel. The idea is to build the framework for young leaders in the community, not just for The Federation, but for our agencies and lots of other Jewish organizations.

What I am also hoping for will be an expansion of senior housing — Menorah Housing — an opportunity for a very significant expansion in terms of those who are older and need a place to live, not necessarily in a nursing home, but in a quality home where they’re able to live in dignity. That’s going to become more and more important.

JJ: Any other thoughts on Super Sunday?

JF: It’s a great event. It engages people from throughout the community and we believe that even in the midst of an economic slowdown, people still believe in the community and in coming together.

Super Sunday: The Next Generation

When Super Sunday rounds its 21st year this weekend, it will not only mark the phone-a-thon’s two-decades-long history of soliciting contributions for the United Jewish Fund (UJF), but the dawning of a new millennium — on calendar and in spirit. This year, in an attempt to attract a younger, broader demographic to its annual philanthropic- and community-minded event, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has aggressively aimed Super Sunday 2000 at young Jews. Key to that movement has been launching an Internet presence.

There is good reason why those involved with Super Sunday lend so much time and energy to the fundraising event. Each year, roughly 10 percent of the annual Federation budget campaign — which subsidizes Jewish Family Service, Jewish Vocational Service, and many other affiliated agencies — is raised by this day-long phone-a-thon.(Incidentally, monies amassed from this campaign are independent of the current Capital Campaign to refurbish the Federation’s 6505 Wilshire Boulevard headquarters.)

Last year, Super Sunday raised $4.75 million in contributions. This Sunday, the Federation is hoping to surpass $5 million with a projected 5,000 volunteers reaching out from sites in West L.A., the Valley and South Bay.

To attain that goal, the Federation has found a variety of avenues to involve young people in the fundraising marathon, beginning with school-age children. Last year, Super Sunday representatives blanketed Bureau of Jewish Education-affiliated schools to turn kids onto the ideas of mitzvah and tzedakah which are the foundation of Super Sunday and the UJF. This weekend, a number of those area teens between the ages 13-18 will fill adult duties, acting as phone callers.

Another way Super Sunday will embrace younger generations this year will be with a “Mitzvah-thon,” described by organizers as “a mini-festival for school-age children, encompassing booths with hands-on activities to promote the concept of good deeds.” Super Sunday Director Jodi Berman said that the Mitzvah-thon will involve young kids and teens in projects like making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for shelters.

The Far West Region United Synagogue Youth will hold an “Allocations Game” at the Westside JCC site where participating kids will get a sense of how the Federation distributes grants to charities and outreach organizations. The United Synagogue Youth chapter will be walking from Temple Beth Am to the JCC site, as part of a walk-a-thon to raise tikkun olam money.

The idea, of course, is “building our donors from a young age,” according to Glenn Gottlieb, who this year will succeed David Aronson as Super Sunday chair. Gottlieb sees 2000 as the year that Super Sunday breaks from formula.

“It’s easy to get jaded,” says the Super Sunday chair. “But I see a lot of people going around trying to reconnect [with Judaism].” And to Gottlieb and company, there is no better way to reconnect with the humanitarian values of Judaism than through a positive, uplifting event like Super Sunday.

To this end, a special committee was created to find new recruits to the Federation cause. Led by Ben Tysch, the special task force is committed to attracting these people with borderline interest in giving to Jewish philanthropy.

(One way people will be able to give in an immediate way on Sunday will be to stop by one of the bone marrow testing booths that will be present at each site. Volunteer and donor Larry Blumenstein, whose wife Sharon is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant, urged Super Sunday administrators to install bone marrow testing stations this year, and the organizers were very eager to comply. The booths will be provided in conjunction with the American Red Cross.)

Another factor making a big difference in Super Sunday 2000 is a rise in corporate sponsorship. Manatt, Phelps & Phillips; Toyota Motor Sales; Gelfand, Newman & Wasserman; Royal Coatings; Lee Isaacson Property Management; and Jem Caterers are among the big businesses making major donations this year.

But the most significant overture to the Jewish community’s future, of course, lies in utilizing new technology. For the first time ever, Super Sunday has had a presence on the World Wide Web, linked the Federation’s online destination. The Super Sunday Web site immediately started paying off on the very first day the site was publicized when more than 30 people registered to volunteer over the Internet. And Gottlieb promises that, by next year, the online registration process will continue to evolve and play a larger part of recruiting participants.

Also on the table for next year are plans to plunge headfirst into the next millennium with a Webcast that will transmit live interviews from the Super Sunday locations. This is a major way that the Federation hopes to reach new generations of contributors to the community.

However, if there is one way that organizers want everyone to remember Super Sunday 2000, it will be as the year that the fundraiser began to appeal to youth.

“Federation has made a commitment to leaders who are younger. The age of leadership this year is far younger than last year,” says Craig Miller, who, with wife Jackie Shelton, will serve as overall vice chairs this year. Indeed, all of the people interviewed for this piece are in their mid- to late 30’s.

Uzzi Ranaan, vice chair of the Federations Access Program, says, “For me, Super Sunday has a few goals. One is obviously to make money. If we raise more money than last year, great. But [it’s also] a unique opportunity to bring together volunteers. They’re learning about Federation, about community involvement…the camaraderie is amazing. The energy that you find throughout the day is unbelievable. There’s so much energy that goes on there. It just brings people together.”

For more information on volunteering for Super Sunday on Feb. 27, 9 A.M.-9 P.M., contact your local Jewish Federation offices: The Jewish Federation, (323) 761-8000; Valley Alliance, (818) 587-3200; Metropolitan and Western Regions, (310) 689-3600; and South Bay Council, (310) 540-2631. To access the Super Sunday Web site, go to

One Day in the Valley

All those searching for the true spirit of Super Sunday, and the work done by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and its United Jewish Fund (UJF), can turn to the Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance site this year.

At 10 a.m. on Feb. 27, Kosovar refugees will be on-hand to make the first Valley site phone call. The recent émigrés will be joined by U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman to launch a day where 1,000 volunteers of all ages will contact 16,0000 area Jews for contributions. A fundraising goal of $2 million dollars has been set by organizers.

What impressed many at the Valley Alliance is that these refugees have not only made L.A. their new home, but are already giving back to their adopted community.

“When they first came to us they were shell-shocked. They were very sad. They were lonely. They were scared,” says Bobbie Black of the refugees. “We now have them in school and they are busy, happy and see that they can make it in America.” Black is a Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance volunteer who recently sponsored a Kosovo family.

Super Sunday is the largest single fundraising day of the year for The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance’s UJF campaign, which raises dollars every year to support humanitarian and social services.

Some Valley Super Sunday flourishes this year: free on-site training, T-shirts and kosher food. Also, free babysitting services will be provided for young children of volunteers; and a Mitzvah-thon will involve kids ages 7 -12 in creating hands-on social action projects.

The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance is located at 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. To volunteer or find more information on Super Sunday, contact The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance at (818) 464-3200; or go to In addition to placing phone calls, volunteers are needed for food service and clerical tasks.M.A., Staff Writer