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Jewish Journal

Super Sunday: The Next Generation

This year, as the city's largest Jewish fundraising event enters a new millennium, the emphasis is on the young and the new


by Michael Aushenker

February 24, 2000 | 7:00 pm

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 www.jewishla.org.

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 www.jewishla.org. In addition to placing phone calls, volunteers are needed for food service and clerical tasks. -- M.A., Staff Writer

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