After 10 years of helping volunteers who made calls during UJA-Federation’s annual Super Sunday event, Avery Goro, 15, of Oceanside, L.I., took to the phones himself last Sunday.
"I made about 50 calls and raised about $2,000," he said with obvious pride. "In one call, I got a $500 pledge. I was surprised and said, ‘Thank you very much.’"
His mother, Roberta, a UJA-Federation fund-raiser for the past 16 years, said she has brought Avery and her other son, Jeremy, to Super Sunday over the years because "I wanted them to see how important volunteering is. And giving tzedakah [charity] is a mitzvah. This is something they are taught in school."
Volunteers calling from UJA-Federation offices on Long Island, New York City and Westchester raised $1.8 million in pledges this year, about the same as last year. This money is on top of the $90 million already pledged to the 2000 annual campaign, which is running at a pace that is more than $4 million ahead of last year. The campaign ends June 30.
Among the more notable callers in Westchester was Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-Rockland County), who surprised other volunteers by taking a stack of calling cards and working the phones himself.
Also manning the phones this year was Shirley Arbesfeld of Manhattan, who said UJA-Federation officials suggested she volunteer for Super Sunday after she retired as a professor at the Rutgers University School of Management in Newark.
"I was looking for something meaningful to do," she explained.Another caller, Norman Friedman of Manhattan, said that even before he picked up the phone he set a goal of raising $15,000, an amount he reached about midway through the afternoon shift.
Nat Buchwald of Massapequa, L.I., said the largest pledge he received was a $2,500 gift from someone he knew years ago. He said the man said he couldn’t say no to him, and then pledged to duplicate his previous year’s gift.
"It’s important that we help those who are less fortunate than ourselves," said Buchwald.
Among some of the most enthusiastic callers were 12 teenagers from the FEGS’ STEPS (Soviet Teen Emigrant Program Toward Self-Sufficiency) club from Forest Hills High School. They raised $51,123 in pledges in just two hours, flooring adult volunteers and professionals alike.
Most of the teens are Bukharan Jews whose families moved to central Queens from Uzbekistan during the last decade. One of them, Oksana Khaimova, 15, said the nervousness he felt as he prepared to make his calls was dissipated by the friendly responses he got from those who made their pledges.
"It seemed like many of them appreciated that they were getting a call from a teenager," he said.Olga Inoyatova, 16, said helping to raise money "meant a lot to me because I remember how much the community helped my family when we arrived here six years ago. It really feels good to be able to give something back."
Added Oksana Yasayeva, 16: "I never would have expected that spending a Sunday volunteering for the community would turn out to be so much fun. It’s too bad Super Sunday comes only once a year."