Volunteers turned out in record numbers Nov. 22 for the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County’s Super Sunday fund-raiser, while the number of first-time donors rose 20 percent.
While the total fell short of last year’s by 11 percent — the all-day phonathon brought in $504,000 as of Nov. 24, with follow-up calling nights scheduled for Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 — organizers said the all-day phonathon represented a strong showing in an economy still struggling to get back on its feet. Federation leaders said they hope to bring the total up to $522,000.
“What we have witnessed demonstrates that our community really understands the urgency of the situation,” said associate executive director Susan Antman. “This was really a testament to the great energy and support of our Jewish community.”
Federation executive director Gerrie Bamira was thrilled by the more than 250 volunteers who lent a hand.
“It’s more than we’ve ever had,” she said. “Volunteers from our partner agencies turned out in record numbers. We had kids of all ages — elementary and high school students, college students. It was really incredible to watch everyone come together as a community.”
Entire families volunteered as well, she said.
“That is what federation is all about,” said Bamira. “I have to say that in 23 years of Super Sundays, this was the most caring one I have ever been involved in.”
In addition to collecting pledges, volunteers were instructed to flag community members who are in need of help so they could be contacted by Jewish Family and Vocational Service of Middlesex County.
Throughout the day, volunteers poured into the federation’s South River office, bringing food for the JFVS kosher food pantry and items for its school supplies drive.
Students, parents, and faculty from area day schools — Solomon Schechter Day School of Raritan Valley, Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva, and Moshe Aaron Yeshiva High School — some sporting school T-shirts and hats, were doing their all for the effort. Rabbis, politicians, and board members of the Campus for Jewish Life and the JCC of Middlesex County all made calls on behalf of federation.
Edison Mayor Jun Choi, who made calls to his town’s residents, laughed as he recounted how one surprised person said to him, “‘Mayor, I didn’t know you were Jewish.’”
“I told him I’m not, but I’m an honorary Jew,” said Choi, a Korean-American.
Other political figures making an appearance were Franklin Mayor Brian Levine, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Dist. 7), Assembly members Upendra Chivukula (D-Dist. 17) and Peter Barnes and Patrick Diegnan (D-Dist. 18), and Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein (D-Dist. 14).
“Middlesex County has always had a strong Jewish population,” said Barnes. “In my town of Edison, the Jewish community adds to the culture of the community. We always try to be supportive of the community.”
Eric Weiss, 12, of East Brunswick led a group of Schechter students who presented a large jar of coins and bills collected from students. The total will be announced at the federation’s annual Magnificent Monday program Dec. 7. “It’s a really important cause, especially for us as a Jewish school where we are taught that it is our responsibility to assist others who need our help,” said the seventh-grader. “My whole family loves federation and what they do.”
Phyllis Freed, a first-time volunteer from Monroe, paused between making calls. “I felt like I wanted to start giving back,” she said.