JCF draws record $2.3 million in wake of assassination

Dedicated to the memory of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and to peace, last week's Super Sunday phonathon raised a record $2.3 million for the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's Annual Campaign.

"Perhaps, in the wake of Rabin's assassination, people felt more of a need to draw together in support of community," said S.F. Super Sunday chair Karyn DiGiorgio.

The money, $100,000 more than last year's total, will become part of an expected $18 million to be allocated by the JCF to some 60 Jewish agencies and programs locally, in Israel and in other countries.

Stressing the JCF's commitment to helping Jews in need, nearly 1,000 volunteers at San Francisco's Fashion Center and Palo Alto's Albert L. Schultz Jewish Community Center called 10,000 fellow Jews — making Super Sunday the Bay Area Jewish community's largest one-day fund-raising effort.

At Super Sunday headquarters in the city, one of the first things volunteers saw as they walked in the door was a poster-size photo of Rabin with the words "May his memory be a blessing…and may that blessing be peace."

Also on display in the lobby were hundreds of photos from the past 15 fund-raisers as well as essays and art projects prepared by students in area Jewish schools. The student's work was based on the JCF's campaign theme, "We Stand Together So No One Stands Alone."

"Standing together" is something 27-year-old Super Sunday volunteer Caren Karp called vital, particularly after a tragedy. Before staffing the phones, she and other volunteers attended a training session where a moment of silence was devoted in Rabin's memory.

Speaking with the aid of a translator, Vladimir Ayzenberg, who relocated to San Francisco from St. Petersburg, Russia, two months ago, said he had come to Super Sunday to "learn what it means to be Jewish." He was pleased that the JCF to dedicated the day to Rabin.

"All Jewish history is suffering and war. This man tried to change that," said Ayzenberg, who worked on a phone bank targeting other Russian-speaking newcomers.

Meanwhile, 4-year-old Asher King Abramson was in no mood to talk politics. He was too busy calling his nursery school classmates.

His father, Don Abramson, said Asher had even reached one youngster whose family had not contributed to the JCF in several decades. "This year they did," said Don Abramson, flashing a proud smile at his son.

Asher, anxious to cut the interview short, said, "Daddy, come on…We've done a lot of work but there's still more to do."

On the Peninsula, co-chairs Anne Steirman and Alan Rosen said they were elated to see so many families involved in Super Sunday.

"It's why we do this," said Rosen, holding 1-year-old daughter Lauren on his shoulder. Noting that he met his wife through the JCF's Young Adults Division, Rosen called Lauren, who wore a "We stand together" sticker on her back, "a real federation baby."

Longtime Peninsula resident and Super Sunday volunteer Bess Gabow said her job each year is to write thank-you notes to people who pledge money. "I work in the clerical department while my husband takes the phones, so we make a great team…just like we always have for the past 58 years!"

Throughout the day, door prizes and balloons added a festive spirit as volunteers made calls, processed pledge cards, conducted training sessions and collected food donations for the San Francisco Food Bank.

Youngsters called "runners" were on hand to assist adult volunteers and make sure they had plenty of cookies and candy. And, for weary callers in need of a quick break, USBodyWorks offered massage services.

By the end of the day, a unique Super Sunday pledge had come in. Thirteen-year-old Talia Zapolanski of San Mateo, who celebrated her bat mitzvah two months ago, said she wanted to donate 10 percent of her gift money to the JCF. "I knew the money was going to a good cause and just knowing that made me feel great about giving it," she said.

According to campaign chair Harold Zlot, new gifts, like the one Zapolanski gave, accounted for a large part of Super Sunday's success this year.

"The numbers speak for themselves. We have now set the tone for a positive campaign," he said.