S.F.-based JCF fund-raiser exceeds financial goal

This year, Super Sunday proved super indeed for the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. A thousand volunteers turned out to make calls, nosh noshes and do some serious schmoozing.

All told, the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties took in $2.6 million, $400,000 over last year and $100,000 over the goal.

To make that happen, the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco was transformed into a Jewish Battlestar Galactica, with hundreds of people gathered to give their all for the community.

“There’s a lot of energy in the building,” said federation president David Steirman. “Everyone’s here today.”

Representatives from throughout the Bay Area Jewish world turned up: federation executives, rabbis, activists and elected officials (among them Assemblyman Mark Leno and S. F. Mayor Gavin Newsom). Even kids played a role, offering chocolate candies to satisfy volunteers’ sugar fix.

Federation CEO Tom Dine has seen a few Super Sundays in his time, but this one left him ebullient. “It is the very essence of community,” said the former AIPAC leader. “This day highlights why I chose to change direction in my career. This is about Jewish identity, Jewish peoplehood.”

The JCC’s Kanbar Hall floor was lined with tables topped with phones, staffed by volunteers from all over the Bay Area.

“I reached a surprising number of people for such a beautiful day,” said San Francisco’s Bob Sherman. “Most people expect the call. My biggest pledge: $1,000.”

Wendy Rothenberg, assistant campaign director for the federation, was enjoying her 10th Super Sunday. “This is the place to be,” she said. “We usually do a little rain dance to make sure people are in, but amazingly we’re reaching a lot of people.”

Super Sunday committee members Steven Sloan and his wife Rhona Edelbaum were kvelling from the get-go. “Most people understand and celebrate all that federation does to enrich our lives,” said Sloan. “At Super Sunday, we make new friends, reconnect with old friends and thank one another for all we do.

Added Edelbaum, “It’s a party!”

Adean Golub of the federation’s Women’s Alliance spent the day in personal consultations with big donors. What’s the thrust of her pitch?

“Guilt,” she said jokingly. “Actually, it’s about Jewish values and ethics. When you look somebody in the eye and ask [for a donation], you establish a relationship and connection.”

Manning the phones was Ira Ruskin, the state assemblyman from the 21st district in Silicon Valley. “One woman said to me ‘I voted for you,'” recalled Ruskin. “I said, ‘That’s nice to hear.’ She pledged $2,160.”

By 3 p.m., Super Sunday co-chairs Jeff and Melissa Hessekiel were satisfied the day was going well. “After 25 years, this is a well-oiled engine,” said Melissa. Added Jeff, “Super Sunday is a magnet. It brings everyone back together again.”

At the Ask the Rabbi booth, Rabbi Pamela Frydman Baugh was taking over the late afternoon shift. Volunteers approached the booth with a wide variety of questions, from “Do Jews believe in the afterlife?” to “Where’s the bathroom?”

For Frydman Baugh, this was the latest in a long line of Super Sundays. “I love the way the JCC hosts this,” she said, looking about the bright and airy atrium. “It’s the perfect place for it.”

As the day waned, it became clear financial targets would be exceeded, which only added to the already abundant good vibes.

“This event is always mind-boggling,” said Caron Tabb of the Israel Center. “I am amazed at how much effort the community puts into building itself.”

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Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.