Duty calls: Contra Costa Jews make a difference with Super Sunday

As Valerie Jonas anticipates this yearés Super Sunday for the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay, sheéll likely keep in mind the old éCabareté rule of human progress:

Money makes the world go éround.

éThe real way to make change is by raising the money to make change happen,é says the federationés regional director for Contra Costa, Tri-Valley and Tri-City regions. éYou can have all the ideas in the world, but it wonét build a synagogue or make a day school happen.é

Thatés why Jonas and up to 100 East Bay volunteers will work the phones on Nov. 19, hoping to attain their goal of $500,000 for the annual campaign, and top last yearés Super Sunday tally of $405,000. The federationés total campaign target for the year is $3.4 million.

As always, Super Sunday takes place at the federationés Oakland headquarters. But Jonasé key role points to the growing influence and impact of the Jewish community east of the Caldecott Tunnel. Jonas works out of the federationés satellite office in Walnut Creek, and she is a proud advocate for her areaés burgeoning Jewish community.

éPeople are starting to feel a change,é she says. éThere are more collaborative efforts in the region, more opportunities for connection. People donét want to be just éthe other side of the hill.é This is where ités happening.é

Meaning thereés much more to East Bay Jewish life than meets the eye along the Berkeley-Oakland-Piedmont corridor.

Jonas says Super Sunday volunteers from the Contra Costa, Tri-Valley and Tri-Cities area will talk up their neck of the woods, including its multiple synagogues, the Contra Costa JCC, two midrashas, the Reutlinger Community for Jewish seniors and the Jewish day camp in southern Alameda, Camp Kadima.

éThis is an extremely developed Jewish community out here,é she says, éand it needs the support of the [broader] community.é

Jay Koppelman agrees completely. Heés the Contra Costa campaign chair, a lay leader who works closely with Jonas throughout the year. Right now heés lining up volunteers to work the phones on Super Sunday. And heés also lining up the lox and bagels.

éItés a nice occasion,é he says of Super Sunday. éWe do a little kibitzing, then we make the calls and talk about the great things weére doing. We tell our volunteers theyére calling people just like them, who identify with the Jewish community and want to see it thrive and develop.é

So what exactly will the federation do with the funds? Jonas cites several top priorities, including Jewish education, outreach to unaffiliated Jews and interfaith families and social action. Asks Jonas, éHow are we going to engage and connect with the 65,000 people we want to bring closer to the community?é

Koppelman thinks one way is to engage people in conversation on Super Sunday. éTheyére mini-conversations,é he says, ébut we talk about whatés important to them in their Jewish lives, whatés meaningful to them. Weére hoping to bring to these people our passion for Jewish identity.é

For Jonas, that passion began early as she was growing up in a Jewish home in Lakewood, N.J. When she moved to the Bay Area 12 years ago, she says, éI found an open approach to Judaism that I liked, that my [three] children could relate to.é She became active with her synagogue, Congregation Beth Emek in Pleasanton, and later with the federation, first as a lay volunteer and now as a staff professional.

On Super Sunday, however, labels like éprofessionalé and évolunteeré disappear, as everyone pitches in together.

Says Koppelman of Super Sunday, éWhatés most exhilarating is to end up walking out of the room and thinking, éWow, what a morning,é or éWhat an afternoon.éé

To volunteer for Super Sunday or to make a donation to the annual campaign of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay call (510) 839-2900.

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.