The Jewish Federation of Cleveland surpassed the $1 million mark for the second straight year on Super Sunday.
According to the Federation, $1,016,875 was raised during the 10-hour phone-a-thon Oct. 20 at the Federation’s Mandel Building in Beachwood – about $16,000 more than in 2012.
More than 1,000 volunteers made phone calls in support of the 2014 Campaign for Jewish Needs, which helps the Jewish and general communities in Greater Cleveland, Israel and throughout the world. Last year’s event attracted about 800 volunteers.
“These dollars matter to our friends, neighbors and strangers,” said J. David Heller, general chair of the campaign. “We show that we stand together in times of need.”
Callers reached 1,758 donors, including 432 new ones. Heller said getting as many new gifts as possible was a primary goal.
“We have a beautiful day, a beautiful turnout, and each of our partners in the community has turned out in incredible numbers,” he said about four hours into the event.
“This is really my favorite day of the campaign because it really brings together the entire community,” Heller said. “It’s a community event, getting everybody to step up and come forward.”
Volunteers make the calls
Ari Jaffe of University Heights said he has volunteered at Super Sunday since 1977, when he was calling high school and college students just like his 16-year-old son, Ben, did Oct. 20. Ben marks the third generation of Jaffe’s family – dating back to Jaffe’s father, Jack – that has volunteered at the event.
“The Jewish Federation is an excellent vehicle for supporting the Jewish community at the local, national and international levels,” said Jaffe, whose wife, Marlyn, also took part.
Ben Jaffe, a junior at Fuchs Mizrachi School in Beachwood, made calls for the first time at Super Sunday alongside his best friend, Alan Soclof, a sophomore at Fuchs Mizrachi.
“It’s fun calling people you know,” Ben said. “It’s better to have students calling students than adults calling students.”
Ben said the largest pledge he received during his two-hour session was $100 and the smallest was $18.
“I had a lot of calls where no one answered the phone,” he said. “One person said, ‘Take us off the list for future years.’”
Alan, 15, of Beachwood, showed excitement after getting a donation of $150 – his largest pledge of the day.
Alan’s cousin, Etan Soclof of University Heights, was at another table making calls with a group from Fuchs Mizrachi. Rabbi Barry Kislowicz, Fuchs Mizrachi’s head of school, said about 75 students and teachers from the school volunteered.
Friends Emma Kagan and Sarah Marek, juniors at Shaker Heights High School, volunteered at Super Sunday for the first time. They are members of the Federation’s Saltzman Youth Panel, a program that brings high school juniors and seniors together to learn about the philanthropic process.
“We’re calling a lot of teens in the area,” said Emma, 16. “It’s a lot more fun than we expected.”
“It feels really good when you get donations,” added Sarah, 17. “When you don’t, it’s OK. There’s always more pledge cards.”
Janice Adell, executive assistant at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood, and Rhoda Seifert, immediate past president of the auxiliary at Montefiore in Beachwood, both said they have volunteered for 15 years or more.
“I do it every year,” said Adell, of Orange. “It’s going pretty well, at least as well as last year.”
Seifert, of South Euclid, said she was getting “a lot of zeroes” with her calls, but she was hopeful things would pick up by the end of her session.
Time for tsedekah, tikkun olam
Lisa Linden, one of six Super Sunday co-chairs, said volunteering for the event “is a great opportunity to practice our Jewish values of tsedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world).”
“It’s about caring for our local and global communities and aspiring to leave no community member behind,” she said.
The other co-chairs were Philip Linden, Lisa’s husband; Cari and Eric Marderstein, and Caroline and Eliav Sharvit.
Before they began making calls, all volunteers were briefed on what to do during a training session, including watching a brief video.
“You’re allowing people out there to perform a mitzvah,” said volunteer trainer Scott Simon of Pepper Pike, a member of the Federation’s board of trustees. “It’s really important to thank the donor.”
KeyBank, one of the event’s sponsors, offered to match “dollar for dollar” any gifts by new donors, Simon said. He added the Federation allocates 91 cents of every dollar donated to the community for “priority programs and services – people in need.”
“Be sure to tell donors that,” he said.
Each hour, after an update was given on how much money had been raised, a different rabbi spoke to the volunteers in a brief segment called “the mitzvah minute.” Some rabbis offered a d’var Torah, a talk relating to a section of the Torah, and all of them thanked the volunteers for their efforts.
“This infuses Torah into the mitzvah all of us are performing here today by asking the community to help, for one Jew to help another Jew to help a third Jew,” Heller said.
Children’s activities took place throughout the day, and kosher meals and snacks were available.
In addition to the funds raised at the Mandel Building, $25.60 was donated Oct. 21 by a 6-year-old boy who, with his brother and some neighborhood friends, set up an apple cider stand on their street. The children gave their proceeds to the Campaign for Jewish Needs after hearing about Super Sunday, according to the Federation.
The campaign began Sept. 12 and runs through Wednesday, Dec. 18. For more information about the campaign or to make a pledge, visit jewishcleveland.org/change or call 216-593-2841.