Rick Glazer, whose involvement in the Jewish community dates back to the mid-1960s, hung up the phone and smiled. He had secured another contribution to United Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks.
Moments later, 14-year-old Josh Levy concluded a conversation with a woman who made a $72 pledge to the federation campaign. Josh, who planned to spend several more hours making phone calls, calculated that he had already surpassed the $4,000 mark in pledges received.
And a few feet away, Stephanie Will, chair of the federation’s Women’s Campaign, was on the phone responding to a question from a potential donor about the kinds of resources the federation provides through its network of agencies.
Three members of the Jewish community. Three volunteers. Three generations.
That was the essence of the federation’s annual Super Sunday phonathon, a daylong event held Dec. 6 at the Bank of America Hopewell Campus in Pennington. More than 150 volunteers took part in the fund-raiser, bringing in more than $200,000, surpassing the federation goal of $150,000. According to federation executive director Andrew Frank, the money raised through Super Sunday represents between 10 and 12 percent of the total campaign target of $2 million.
“This is our Jewish community,” said Mark Merkovitz, campaign vice president and cochair of the fund-raiser, along with both Will and Emily Josephson, who also serves as the federation’s vice president of community relations and allocations.
“It belongs to all of us — everyone here, and everyone who is receiving a phone call,” said Merkovitz, a Princeton resident. “We have people of all ages and levels of involvement coming together to raise funds and strengthen the Jewish community. That’s what today is all about.”
A few minutes earlier, dozens of teens finished a training session led by Merkovitz and took their places along the banks of phones. Glazer, of Lawrenceville, who served as federation president from 1974 to ’77, welcomed the arrival of his youthful fellow volunteers.
“It makes me think back to when I was their age,” he said. “My parents were active, so I learned about federation at our dining room table. Eventually, it became an important part of my life, and that’s something that’s never changed.
“For me, a day like this is so meaningful. In order to have a successful campaign, you can’t depend on just the big gifts,” he said. “You have to have broad-based community support. All you have to do is take a look around; it’s obvious that we have that today.”
Frank had come over to greet Glazer, and when he heard his assessment of the event, he nodded in agreement.
“We want people to understand the importance of the work we do, especially in these difficult economic times,” Frank said. “But at the same time, we try to create as festive an atmosphere as possible. We want everyone to have fun, so we have activities for children and teen programming. We give all our volunteers an opportunity to have something to eat and to socialize. Based on the turnout we’ve had, people seem to be responding.”
Frank emphasized that the unfavorable economic climate has proven to be a challenge to the fund-raisers.
“Fortunately,” said Josephson, of West Windsor, “we live in a community where people seem to want to do their part.” She was joined at the gathering by her husband, Seth, and children Isabel, 11, and Louis, eight.
“We Jews have a history of coming together in times of crisis,” Josephson said. “We’ve got to help one another, because if we don’t, nobody else will help us. In times like these, our work is more important than ever before, and that’s why we can’t stop doing what we do. Otherwise, somebody who is literally depending on us to eat might not get a meal.
“That’s why I’m so proud to see how people of all ages are so willing to lend a hand.”
Young Isabel took a brief break from collecting pledge cards from volunteers seated along the phone banks to elaborate on her mother’s words.
“It’s simple,” she stated. “I like to help.”
After yet another successful solicitation, Josh Levy, who lives in Plainsboro, offered similar sentiments. Even though he’s only 14, he was volunteering at Super Sunday for the fifth time.
“It makes you feel good to be able to raise money, and it’s important to try to make people feel good about making a contribution,” he said. “You can’t just read from a script. You have to talk to people, answer their questions, and help them understand why we need their support.”
Fellow 14-year-old volunteer Abby Park of Lawrenceville said she enjoys talking to a diverse variety of people on the phone, and she cherishes the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies her volunteer efforts.
“As long as I’m able to help the federation and have fun, I’ll keep coming back,” she said.
Will said she is one of those inspired by the dedication of the young people to the cause. In addition to teens active with the Jewish Community Youth Foundation, among the young people lending their support to Super Sunday were members of Young Judea; teens from Beth El Synagogue in East Windsor, Congregation Beth Chaim in Princeton Junction, and Adath Israel Congregation in Lawrenceville; and participants from the Hillels at The College of New Jersey in Ewing and Rider University in Lawrenceville.
“We take the development of future leaders very seriously,” Will said. “After a day like today, it’s obvious that this community has plenty of hope for the future.”
She added that the success of Super Sunday is a powerful statement about hope for the present as well.
“People listened to our message,” Will said, “and they responded.”