Zero-level cards may tally big numbers in E. Bay drive

They call them zero-level cards: approximately 800 little 3×5 cards on which are written the names of East Bay Jews yet to donate money.

Leaders at the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay are betting those zero-level card folks won’t remain zero for long. For Super Sunday on Nov. 19, more than 100 volunteers will call them and thousands of others during the annual one-day fundraiser.

“Last year we had 500 donors and raised $400,000,” says federation campaign director Sean Mandell of Super Sunday 2005. “This year we anticipate 600 or more.”

To help make it happen, Mandell and the federation rely on lay leadership. Mark Moss of Piedmont is this year’s Super Sunday chair. He has many responsibilities, one of which, he says, is traffic direction.

“I hand out the M&Ms,” he laughs. “I also help volunteers answer questions about any of the local Jewish organizations. It’s my job to make everything as simple as possible for people.”

It’s also his job to find volunteers to fill all five of the 2-hour shifts on Super Sunday. He has no doubts about finding more than enough people. “The gist of the appeal is sustaining and growing Jewish institutions both locally and internationally,” adds Moss. “It’s a phenomenal way for people to get together. There’s so much excitement and good will in the room.”

Rob Ruby vouches for Moss’s enthusiasm. As the federation campaign chair, he knows how significant Super Sunday can be to the annual campaign. And he thinks cold calling the zero-level cards will pay off in big dividends.

“Since we have all these untapped, unaffiliated Jewish citizens, in Contra Costa especially, asking them for money is a very good way to open the Jewish conversation,” says Ruby. “It’s counterintuitive, but people appreciate volunteers take their time for this rather odd task. They’re often intrigued. We talk about why we’re there, and why we’re spending our Sunday doing this.”

Ruby says the goal of Super Sunday is not just to “close cards. It’s also about having conversations with donors new and old.

“Super Sunday is a major part of the campaign,” he adds. “We end up closing a lot of gifts. It’s not just a gimmick.”

Where do the zero-level card names come from? Ruby says many were collected at the annual federation picnic, sponsored by the Young Leadership Division and held this year for the first time in Contra Costa County. The event drew more than 700 people, far exceeding organizers’ expectations.

“Our Jewish community has grown so quickly,” notes Mandell. “We’ve seen countless numbers of people we’d never seen before. There is a new excitement about getting involved in something Jewish.”

Ruby thinks some of the renewed community energy stems from the reaction to Israel’s recent war with Hezbollah. The Jewish response locally and nationwide was overwhelming, with hundred of millions of dollars raised to help beleaguered Israelis.

“The East Bay Jewish community responded with real emotion and amazing generosity,” recalls Ruby. “In days we raised a million dollars in our community. People have now seen that the general campaign infrastructure needs to be supported, maintained and improved because the federation system is the only agency capable of responding to humanitarian disasters on a large scale. Our donors understand that.”

Moss has been a Super Sunday volunteer for years, but this is his first time in a supervisory role. “I feel completely committed to doing whatever I can to help Jewish causes,” he says, “and to help further the federation institutions.”

His friend Rob Ruby feels the same way and knows Moss’s sentiment comes from the heart. After all, the two were teammates on the same Detroit-area Little League team about a thousand years ago.

“I don’t remember the name of the team,” he says, quickly adding: “I think it was named for some dry cleaner.”

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.