April 6, 2000
Long before last August, when he had his bar mitzvah at Santa Monica's Beth Shir Shalom, 13-year-old Alex Miller has practiced what he has been preached: charity and tikkun olam.
For him, it all began in 1996, when Miller's third grade class participated in Super Sunday.
"I really enjoyed it," he recalls. "Whenever a phone opened up, me and my friend would run for it."
Every year since, Miller has returned to do his part on the annual phone-a-thon. Last year, he broke the Super Sunday record for a non-adult volunteer -- singlehandedly raising $10,250 in seven hours. And this year, Miller broke his own record, bringing in $16,000. In fact, it was the single greatest individual intake of the entire site. And no, his mother didn't put him up to it.
"I kept coming to pick him up and he kept refusing to leave. I came to pick him up four times," says Elaine Miller, Alex's mother. "When he focuses on something, he's really tenacious."
In return for his Super mitzvah, Miller received a CD holder, a couple of CDs, and some T-shirts. But that's not the reason he does it.
"I really enjoy helping people," says Miller, "especially those I know need help."
During the other 364 calendar days of the year, Miller's interests are sports, science, history, playing drums and watching "The Simpsons." But Super Sunday is where his heart is, and he looks forward to hanging out at the phones each year.
"I like the atmosphere of it. It's relaxed, good food, lots of energy going around, everyone's friendly."
The articulate Miller even spoke for an hour on Nelson Fernandez's KRLA public affairs show with Super Sunday director Jodi Berman and chair Glenn Gottlieb.
Elaine Miller, who once did some telephonic fundraising for Alex's school, insists that her son's drive does not run in the family.
"He did not get this from me. I would always do it and I would have to force myself," says Elaine. "This is him. He has always been this very empathic action taker."
Simply put, Miller believes that giving back to his community is "really important. I think it's part of being Jewish."
Despite his efforts, Miller has not been too successful enlisting his peers to join him on Super Sunday: "I found that a lot of teenagers just aren't interested doing this."
But for any young adult out there interested in participating in Super Sunday next year, Miller has some advice.
"Don't follow the scripts that they give you," he says. "If you can, it works a lot better to ad-lib and improvise. Just get out there and do it. It makes you feel really good and it's a lot of fun." -- Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer
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