Sept. 11. An intifada in Israel. Los Angeles' Jewish Community Centers debacle. Economic crisis in Argentina.
If there's one thing that The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has no shortage of, it is Jewish causes to raise charitable dollars for. On March 3, this year's annual Super Sunday fundraiser, with its goal of at least matching last year's $5 million one-day total, should go a long way toward addressing such causes, as well as supporting The Federation's 15 local beneficiary agencies -- including Jewish Family Service and Bet Tzedek -- and a multitude of programs worldwide.
"We're always optimistic," said Jack Mayer, executive director of Valley Alliance. "We have a good organizational effort and a lot of community support."
Super Sunday's organizers believe that they will be able to achieve their fundraising goal. Despite a plethora of hardships, including internal staff layoffs, The Federation still managed close out 2001 on top, with nearly $45 million in general campaign money.
Last year, about 2,500 Super Sunday volunteers hit the phone banks and raised $5 million dollars for The Federation's United Jewish Fund.
A crucial facet of this year's phone-a-thon will be the money raised toward the crisis in Argentina. The Federation has already committed $1.5 million to Argentina's Jews (see below).
"It's working people, it's people living in the streets," said Valley Alliance publicity director Deborah Dragon. "Hearing about government uprisings doesn't make sense when you hear about it, but people losing their jobs, their homes, their life savings, that's pretty real."
Dragon will be coordinating a table reserved for a group of Argentine Jewish locals at the Valley Alliance site.
"What we're trying to have them do is be here all day and have an Argentina table where they'll be working the phones," Dragon said.
While the Argentines will be fundraising, the pledges they raise will not be earmarked for Argentina, but will go toward the overall Super Sunday campaign. However, Dragon added, "If people want to give directed gifts, they can."
"I think the situation is changing daily and we're waiting for direct reports from a national group that went their last week," Mayer said. The group includes local Federation lay leader Diana Fiedotin, whose family is from Argentina.
"Argentina is a major international of concern," Mayer said. "We're working through the Jewish Agency and American Joint Distribution Committee to provide assistance," Mayer said.
The Jewish Agency will handle helping Argentinian Jews flee their country for Israel, while the Joint Distribution Committee will aid in matters of social welfare.
One element that will be missing from some Super Sunday venues this year are the youthful cries and the pitter-patter of little feet. By and large, this year's campaign will not offer activities and services for children.
"What we've tried to do is refocus on the fundraising portion," Harold Ginsburg, Super Sunday chair, told The Journal. "My initial goal was to incorporate everybody, the entire family. The reality comes in that there's not enough staff."
Ginsburg, a Federation volunteer who operates Art's Deli in Studio City, said that the decision was a pragmatic one, based on the staff shortage, and also because, "there's a real issue on a security level we had to maintain. We didn't want to worry about kids running around. It's just one of those unfortunate things."
Not all Super Sunday sites will be bereft of mitzvah projects and child care. At the Valley Alliance, the Leadership Development Division, a young professionals chapter, will be providing the manpower to install such family-oriented programming.
Super Sunday originally began in 1976, the brainchild of Elton Kerneff, campaign director for the Washington D.C.-area Jewish Federation. It's been a nationwide United Jewish Communities of North America (the parent entity of all Federations) fundraising tradition ever since.
Last year's married chairs, Jackie Shelton and Craig Miller, relocated in Northern California this year. As a result, Ginsburg was asked to deliver as this year's Super Sunday chair. It is a role he was eager to tackle.
"We have a unique system that is capable that is responding to the needs of the community both nationally and internationally."
Ginsburg has good reason to believe in the Federation system. For nearly a decade, Ginsburg has drawn many rewards from the Federation system, on both a volunteer and personal level. Eight years ago, the then-33-year-old, recently divorced Ginsburg became involved with Federation after the 1994 Northridge Quake, when a friend urged him to get involved in ACCESS, The Federation's single professionals division. In fact, Ginsburg's very first Federation event was stuffing envelopes for Super Sunday.
Now 41, Ginsburg is happily remarried, and he met his wife while on a 1997 ACCESS Shabbaton.
Ginsburg will put his imprint on this year's event by strengthening the relationship between the phoner and the donor. He has decided to borrow a page from last year's Valley site Super Sunday orientation co-chair Irwin Jacobson and assign coaches, made up of Super Sunday veterans, to 10 phone solicitors.
Overall, Ginsburg believed that his approach will work and he urged everyone in town to get involved.
"This is a day when we are asking our Jewish community to declare, 'Hineni, here I am,'" Ginsburg said.
Super Sunday takes place on Mar. 3 from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. at three locations -- Mid-City: 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; The Valley: 22622 Van Owen St., West Hills; and South Bay: 22410 Palos Verdes Blvd, Torrance. For information and registration, call (323) 761-8319; or visit www.jewishla.org .
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