More than 400 volunteers, including 300 phone bankers, helped The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles raise an excess of $1.3 million this month on Super Sunday, the phone-a-thon that marks the beginning of its annual fundraising campaign.
That figure represents a dip from last year, when the Federation brought in more than $1.9 million. Jay Sanderson, Federation president and CEO, said that’s no reason to worry, however, because of the event’s focus on reaching out to new donors this year.
“For the old model for Super Sunday, we would be calling anybody and everybody no matter what size the gift they had given us. … We don’t do that anymore,” he said. “Super Sunday for us is calling new donors and new donors who have maybe stopped giving. The total amount raised was from new donors, and it’s actually the most money from new donors ever, so it’s a huge success.”
Volunteers, working out of the Skirball Cultural Center on Feb. 9, solicited 1,568 donors during the event that lasted from 10 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., according to Federation Senior Vice President of Marketing Mitch Hamerman.
This was the first time that Super Sunday was held at a central location. In past years, simultaneous phone-a-thons took place on the Westside and in the Valley.
This year, to emphasize that the Federation is about bringing the Jewish community together, the organization opted to consolidate the sessions into a single setting that would be geographically convenient to all.
“The Skirball Cultural Center has established itself as a center of Jewish life in Los Angeles,” Sanderson said.
Participants included community members, clergy, Federation staff, members of the Federation group YALA (Young Adults of Los Angeles) and even elected officials, such as Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz.
“I always come out to Super Sunday because the Jewish Federation does so many important things — particularly for the Jewish community both here and in Israel, and for the greater community, and I want to do everything that I can to help every year,” Koretz said as he made his way to the entrance of Skirball’s Herscher Hall, where the Super Sunday phone-a-thon was held.
Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin; L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer; and former L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel, who has announced that she will run to replace Rep. Henry Waxman, were among those making phone calls and filling out pledge cards.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector and professor of philosophy at American Jewish University, said he loves Super Sunday because it is an opportunity to explain the mission of the Federation, which includes ensuring the Jewish future, engaging the community and serving Jews in need.
“I must say when I call people, and I share some of those reasons … they enjoy hearing about what their money is going for, all the really important things that the Federation does, and why someone who has never given money for the Federation should give,” he said in an interview.
Super Sunday entails outreach to two groups: donors who have previously provided sums to Federation, and people who haven’t donated to Federation before. Therefore, volunteers do more than ask for contributions. They take time to educate about the Federation mission.
“Super Sunday is an opportunity for the [already-engaged] community to come together and reach out to the broader community, to engage them in the work of the Federation and ask for their support. … For us, because I believe the job of the Jewish Federation is to build the Jewish community, this is a community-building day,” Sanderson said.
Appropriately enough, the day was about more than just phone calls. Approximately one-fourth of the day’s participants — 100 volunteers — participated in a diverse selection of community service projects across the city. This element of tikkun olam was incorporated into Super Sunday several years ago.
At the Westside headquarters of Friendship Circle Los Angeles, dozens of volunteers excitedy participated in activities that serve the Chabad-sponsored organization’s clientele: special needs children. They stocked mishloach manot gift baskets that the kids will receive on Purim, made decorations for the organization’s upcoming Purim carnival and hung bulletin boards in the center’s hallway.
There, Shelly Brami, 35, colored in a banner that read “Happy Purim” with her two daughters, Shani, 6, and Daniella, 7. Brami, who is of Israeli descent, said that the Federation’s commitment to helping non-Jews appeals to her.
“I understand that they just don’t help Jewish people, but they also help others,” she said.
In Agoura Hills, volunteers joined the anti-hunger organization Food Forward in harvesting oranges from fruit trees, according to the Federation. The group was one of several non-profits that partnered with Federation in hosting service projects. Heal the Bay took volunteers to a beach cleanup effort in Santa Monica, and Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles led individuals in assembling care packages for the needy at the Zimmer Children’s Museum. P.J. Library and the Shalom Institute also offered programming.