After making calls last year for Super Sunday, UJA-Federation’s annual phone solicitation drive, Rhonda Buckley of Dix Hills, L.I., returned this year with two of her daughters.
“Years ago, UJA-Federation helped me out with a subsidy for the kids’ summer camp … and I thought it would be nice to give back,” she said at the organization’s Syosset office.
Laryngitis prevented her two younger daughters, Elana, 14, and Jessica, 20, from making calls this year, but they sent literature to potential contributors and helped more than 30 children fill Purim bags with candy for Holocaust survivors while the children’s parents made calls in another room.
Meanwhile at the UJA-Federation office in Manhattan, more than 200 Jews from the former Soviet Union — including a contingent of high school students from Brooklyn — helped man the phones. Many came with the phone numbers of relatives, neighbors and friends from the former Soviet Union whom they called on Sunday to make a pledge to UJA-Federation.
“The teens know that when they came to America, UJA-Federation helped them and they want to give back to the community,” said Maryanne Netis, director of teen services at the JCH of Bensonhurst.
At another desk in Manhattan, Holocaust survivor Frances Irwin, chair of Super Sunday’s Interboro campaign, said she became involved in UJA-Federation because Jewish federations “paid for me to come to America [and] I want to pay back.”
More than 750 volunteers making calls from six offices in Manhattan, the Bronx and Westchester and on Long Island raised a record amount this year — more than $2.1 million. It was a 4.3 percent increase over last year.
The total included about $700,000 raised last week through first-time face-to-face solicitations of about 100 individuals, according to Paul Kane, senior vice president for finance resource development.
Volunteers told potential donors about the pressing needs of Israelis who have endured nearly 17 months of Palestinian violence; about the needs of Argentine Jews, many of whom are leaving for Israel to escape their country’s economic collapse; and about the needs of Jews locally following the terror attacks here.
“Our agencies here have had to work overtime after 9-11 to meet the needs of the community,” said Diane Wohl, co-chair with Barry Effron of Super Sunday.
“To me,” said Effron, “Super Sunday is about the whole community standing together to help Jews. [It’s about] people coming together with one voice to do tikkun olam, repairing the world.”
Some of the youngest donors to the campaign were Charlotte and Ben Diamond, 5 and 8 respectively, who contributed the money in their tzedaka boxes.
“We decided that bringing their tzedaka boxes to Super Sunday was a great opportunity for them to see the mitzvah of tzedaka in action, to see that example being set by so many volunteers,” said their father, Jay.
In Syosset, Brian and Alison Okun of Merrick chaired the Purim bag event. Their 4-year-old daughter, Emily, enjoyed filling the bags along with 4-year-old Jamie Field as each munched on chocolate.
Donna Levine of Brookville, who brought her youngest, Brandon, 5, said she was there because she “had some time and this is the best place I could think of coming. I want to help raise money for the wonderful work of UJA-Federation.”
Among some of the veteran UJA-Federation volunteers were three men in Westchester — Stuart Kolbert, Donald Fleishaker and Donald Landis — who figured out that together they had spent 116 years volunteering for the organization.
Quipped Landis, who has been active with UJA for more than 50 years: “My wife and I had our first date at a UJA event 44 years ago.”
Super Sunday also brought together at the Mid-Westchester JCC in Scarsdale Jewish students from Sarah Lawrence College and SUNY Purchase. Shira Shimoni, the Hillel director in Westchester, noted that two of the students, Sara Oppenheim and Erica Asher, participated in the birthright israel program and returned from Israel “wanting to give back.”
“Super Sunday is a way of doing just that,” Shimoni said.
Super Sunday was also used as the occasion to open the new South Shore UJA-Federation office located in law offices across from the railroad station in Cedarhurst, L.I. Designed to replace an office in Hewlett, it will be professionally staffed three days a week.
In reaching out to members of the Jewish community for support, some volunteers ran across those who were unable to support the organization because of personal problems of their own. Steven Cownie, who headed the Westchester drive, said he was able to get help for a woman whose father is gravely ill and needed assistance.
“That made everything worthwhile,” he said.
Caryn Resnick was told by a woman that her family was unable to contribute this year because her husband had been out of work for six months. Resnick passed the phone to Virginia Cruickshank, who was sitting next to her and who works for FEGS, an employment service.
Within minutes, Cruickshank said she had placed the man into the FEGS network to help find him a job.