November 18, 2018

Callers and donors come through on Super Sunday

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles raised more than $1.3 million in pledges Feb. 21 at its annual phonathon, Super Sunday, surpassing last year’s total by about $100,000, according to Federation spokesman Mitch Hamerman.

But despite receiving 2,650 distinct commitments over the course of a single day, Andrew Cushnir, Federation executive vice president and chief development officer, said the event was about more than the money. 

“Super Sunday is a day when we rally hundreds of members of the community to reach out to thousands of members of the community to support the Jewish Federation’s work in Los Angeles, Israel and around the world,” he said. “The goal is to reach as many people as we can and raise as much money as we can, but we don’t think in terms of a specific dollar goal. We think in terms of reaching as many people we can with stories about the good work of the Federation.”

Cushnir spoke to the Journal from the organization’s Wilshire Boulevard headquarters, one of two sites transformed into call centers where volunteers phoned longtime Federation supporters as well as first-time donors and requested support. The other location was Federation’s Valley Alliance office in Woodland Hills. 

Super Sunday has been taking place for more than 30 years, according to Cushnir, raising money for the umbrella organization for Jewish life in Los Angeles. Federation provides grants to dozens of Jewish organizations across the city, operates programs that send locals to Israel, assists low-income Holocaust survivors and more. Its three areas of focus are caring for Jews in need, engaging the community and ensuring the Jewish future. 

Approximately 500 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds turned out to the organization’s two makeshift call centers, according to Federation leadership. One such caller was Stan Weinberg, 73, a certified public accountant from Westchester. He said he has been volunteering at Super Sunday for the past 15 years, and so he took first-time volunteer Diane Ring, who was seated next to him, under his wing. He said he enjoyed “reaching out to the local Jewish community” on behalf of the local Federation.

As with previous years, a number of elected officials turned out to show support for Federation’s work. This year, they included L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer, L.A. City Councilmen David Ryu and Paul Koretz, state Rep. Richard Bloom and state Sen. Ben Allen.

“The reality is the work of the Federation could not happen without a lot of people contributing and giving of themselves and their money,” Galperin said. “We know the money will be well used by the Federation, as it has for generations.”

Federation allowed volunteers to use their own cellphones but lent some to those who did not want to use their personal cellphones to make calls. Hamerman, Federation senior vice president of campaign management and communications, interrupted phone calls about every hour to announce the updated fundraising totals. He also announced raffle-ticket winners of an assortment of prizes. 

Mark Meyer, a 43-year-old urban planner who volunteered for the second consecutive year on Super Sunday, praised Federation’s work — and the fundraiser.

“It’s a great organization. I did it last year and it was so much fun,” he said. “The Federation does a lot of important work. It’s a great day and I am honored to be here.”

Over the sound of volunteers ringing bells to alert their peers about successfully receiving a pledge, Federation Board Chairwoman Julie Platt said the energy of the event appealed to her.

“I just love standing here and listening to the buzz in the room. Everybody is on the phone,” she said. “People understand what we do better than they ever have before and you can see they are trying to share that on the phones.”

Jewish community professionals turned out to help, as well, including JQ International Executive Director Asher Gellis and Theatre Dybbuk Artistic Director Aaron Henne, both of whom lead organizations that are beneficiaries of Federation funds.

Super Sunday was also, for some, a family affair. Attendees included Sheilah Miller — who traveled to Israel when she was 17 with the help of an organization partially funded by The Jewish Federations of North America — her 9-year-old granddaughter Abigail Fischler, and Miller’s daughter Rachel Fischler, Abigail’s mother.

“This makes me feel good,” Miller said. “I’m doing something constructive.”