Loren Basch plans a super bash for E. Bay federation

Super Sunday may be a venerable Jewish tradition, but talmudic scholars agree: There’s no mention of Super Sunday in the Torah.

In fact, Loren Basch remembers attending the very first Super Sunday in San Francisco back in 1980, and how exhilarating that historic event turned out.

Says Basch, “Having 100 people in the Gold Room of the Fairmont Hotel, everyone together, running around with cards: We knew right away it was a revolutionary moment for the campaign. You had the potential of calling the most Jews in one day — and it’s still true.”

Basch, the current CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay, will be on hand Sunday, Nov. 19 at that federation’s Oakland headquarters for this year’s edition of Super Sunday. He expects the hundreds of volunteers who turn out will have fun raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the East Bay Jewish community.

“There’s a definite buzz in the air,” he adds. “The shmoozing that goes on between calls is really fun, because everyone knows it’s all for a good cause. Each year people expect to be called. From a fundraising standpoint, that makes you feel good.”

Super Sunday used to be held at different times of the year, but Basch says holding the event in November gives a boost to the federation’s annual campaign.

The goal for Super Sunday this year is $500,000, topping last year’s tally of $405,000. The federation’s overall campaign goal for the year is $3.4 million. “We’re way ahead in the pace of the 2007 annual campaign,” he says, “and the year-to-year increase is over 60 percent. We’re on a roll.”

Each federation across the country develops its own Super Sunday subculture. In the East Bay, the day is more relaxed, perhaps less structured than others. According to Basch, Super Sunday has the feel of an old-fashioned American barn raising. High school sophomores who spent the summer on a federation teen trip to Israel work the phones side-by-side with major donors. And all usually meet with success.

“The single most surprising thing about it is that East Bay people are very inclined to say yes,” adds Basch. “They may not give as much as L.A. or San Francisco, but they understand the importance of it.”

Basch’s job on Super Sunday is a little different. He’s like the croupier at the private Monte Carlo baccarat table, carrying the largest cards, arranging appointments between big donors and federation leaders, and making sure the volunteer team stays on point.

He also makes sure callers mention the federation’s ongoing Israel emergency fund, which goes to rebuilding those regions of Israel devastated by the war with Hezbollah last summer. “The thing about Super Sunday,” he adds, “it’s a lot better than somebody getting a letter in the mail asking to give.”

And coming off a big election day in America, Basch can’t help but compare the grassroots efforts of Super Sunday volunteers to their equivalent in classic political campaigns.

“It’s the closest we come to participatory social democracy,” says Basch. “People vote with their checkbook.”

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.