Rabbis, synagogues rallying support for Super Sunday

Rabbis of synagogues throughout the Bay Area have voiced their support of Super Sunday, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's annual phonathon, for years.

But this year, when they urge their congregations to participate in the Jewish community's largest one-day fund-raiser, it will be at the formal urging of the Board of Rabbis of Northern California.

For the first time in the event's history, the board has sought to join the federation in making the promotion of Super Sunday a top priority.

"We have always helped when asked," said Rabbi H. David Teitelbaum, executive director of the Board of Rabbis. "This year we simply took the initiative and went to the federation first."

Super Sunday this year will be held simultaneously in San Francisco and Palo Alto on Feb. 1.

Prior to that, as a result of the board's initiative, this weekend nearly a dozen local synagogues will participate in Federation Shabbat, a program designed to promote Super Sunday.

Co-sponsored by the board and the JCF, the program's goal is to educate congregants about the federation's activities. Teitelbaum said he came up with the idea for the program as a way of "heightening awareness of the critical role of the federation in the advancement of Jewish life in our community, in Israel and throughout the world."

Last year, more than $2 million was raised on Super Sunday. The money, which became part of the JCF's annual campaign, was directed to more than 60 Jewish agencies and programs.

This Shabbat, synagogues from San Francisco to Marin and the Peninsula will use Federation Shabbat as an opportunity to let congregants know how Super Sunday dollars help provide such services as housing and medical assistance for the elderly; emergency food, shelter and cash for those in need; resettlement of immigrants here and in Israel; and help for people with AIDS.

Tonight, during Shabbat services at San Francisco's Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, Rabbi Jane Litman will hand the podium over to congregant and JCF board member Paul Cohen, who will urge his peers to volunteer on Super Sunday and pledge to give to the federation's annual campaign.

"I think it's relevant that this Shabbat we begin the Book of Exodus, which shows how we became a people. I'm going to be giving a historical perspective on the institution of community and how the federation today helps hold our community together," he said.

Rabbi Marvin Goodman of Foster City's Peninsula Sinai Congregation said his synagogue will dedicate Saturday morning to Federation Shabbat.

"At our synagogue a fair share of congregants already volunteer to work on Super Sunday," said Goodman, noting that "it's the one day in which all congregations can come together as a community."

Last year, to support Super Sunday, Goodman asked several congregants to share personal stories of why they give to the JCF's annual campaign in a talk titled "What Being Jewish Means to Me." The event was so successful that he intends to expand on it for this year's Federation Shabbat.

Teitelbaum sees Federation Shabbat as a sign of increasing federation-synagogue involvement — something he hopes to continue.

"When we work together the entire Jewish community benefits. I urge everyone to join us in our effort to raise money for Jews in need by being a part of Super Sunday," he said.

According to San Francisco Super Sunday chair Josh Smith and South Peninsula chair Morry Katz, volunteers are still needed to work at both Super Sunday locations.

To find out more about volunteering in San Francisco, call (415) 777-0411. To volunteer in the South Peninsula, call (415) 494-8444.