Super Sunday volunteers offer songs, solace raise $1.5 million

When Cantor James Gloth decided to volunteer for Super Sunday, he had no idea he'd have to sing to solicit contributions.

During the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's 17th annual phonathon on Sunday, the cantor secured a $365 donation from someone who had never given before — but only after the prospective donor got him to sing "Shalom Rav."

Gloth, who is cantor of Temple Beth Jacob in Redwood City, was one of 1,000 volunteers who worked at Super Sunday, the Bay Area Jewish community's largest one-day fund-raising effort. This year, the event raised more than $1.5 million for the JCF's already strong 1998 annual campaign, pushing it closer to its $21.1 million goal.

"We're over halfway there," announced campaign chair Carol Saal, noting that prior to Super Sunday some $12 million in campaign funding had been raised. "That puts us ahead of where we were at this time last year."

San Francisco Super Sunday chair Josh Smith and vice chair Harry Maring were pleased with the results of the fund-raiser, held at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco and the Albert L. Schultz JCC in Palo Alto.

The number of contributions for the day was strong, even though Super Sunday was held late this year and many donors had already made their campaign pledges, which increased by an average of 5 percent over last year's.

At Super Sunday headquarters in San Francisco, the mood was upbeat as volunteers admired art projects by Brandeis Hillel Day School students in San Francisco and Marin, the North Peninsula Jewish Community Day School and San Francisco's Congregation Sha'ar Zahav.

Many volunteers voiced their excitement over having the event at the JCC of S.F., one of the JCF's biggest beneficiary agencies.

Working at the clerical station, 90-year-old Super Sunday volunteer Eva Greenback Honig also volunteers regularly at the JCC.

"I like to work in clerical because after a few phone calls my voice gets hoarse," said the San Francisco resident. She fondly recalled making her first gift to the JCF in 1929, during the height of the Depression. "I gave $5, which, during that time was considered a big contribution."

Five dollars still seems like a lot of money to Adam Fox. The 8-year-old volunteer had been pledging that amount for the last few years. But this year was different. Carrying a $20 bill in his pocket, the youngster came prepared to up his contribution.

After meeting with JCF staff during a face-to-face solicitation — and learning what the campaign funds accomplish — the North Peninsula resident decided to donate $30.

"I wanted to give more. I've been saving up for a year to be able to," said Adam, who worked at Super Sunday as a runner, assisting adult volunteers and making sure they didn't run out of the traditional Super Sunday staples of M&M's and Jelly Bellies.

Meanwhile, at the packed phone bank titled "New Americans," Russian-speaking volunteers solicited fellow emigres. In the clerical station, 18 young adults participating in San Francisco Hillel's new Russian program volunteered at Super Sunday for the very first time.

"We've all been helped by the Jewish community…this is our way of giving something back," said Tatiana Glukhaya, a recent emigre and one of the program's founding members.

Unlike Glukhaya, Super Sunday volunteer Melvin Lichtman has long been familiar with the local Jewish community and the S.F.-based JCF's annual campaign, which raises money for 60 Jewish agencies and programs locally, in Israel and elsewhere overseas.

A member of the federation's Quarter Century Circle, the third-time Super Sunday volunteer said he has been giving to the campaign for about 50 years. "It's all part of our Jewish tradition," said Lichtman, who is also a member of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund's Living Legacy Society for making a gift to the endowment through his will.

"I want to set an example for my seven grandchildren and teach them why it's important to do good work," he said.

On the Peninsula, nearly 300 volunteers — the most ever — made calls from the ALSJCC.

"I know very well how valuable it is that Jews support each other here and all over the world," volunteer Marvin Zauderer of Sunnyvale said between phone calls. "That's why I'm here." He added that many of the prospects he phoned seemed to be waiting for his call — which he attributed to Super Sunday radio ads that the federation ran for the first time.

Morry Katz, Super Sunday chair for the Peninsula, said callers were having great success in reaching prospective contributors.

While upbeat calls like Gloth's singing scenario occurred throughout the day, there were also calls of a more serious nature.

At the ALSJCC, Super Sunday volunteer Rabbi Sheldon Lewis of Palo Alto's Congregation Kol Emeth was able to counsel and provide solace to a man who had recently lost his wife. And, in San Francisco, a volunteer called a donor who was having trouble breathing and arranged to have an ambulance sent over to his home.

"Super Sunday is not just about raising money," Smith concluded. "Phone calls like these illustrate how, beyond being an exciting and productive fund-raising event, it really is a day for reaching out to our community and helping fellow Jews in need."