Super Sunday adjusts for economic downturn
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Super Sunday adjusts for economic downturn

What makes this year’s Super Sunday different from other Super Sundays?

A national economic crisis that has donors tightening purse strings, for one, a new date and a new location for another.

Super Sunday, the best known of the federation system’s fund-raising efforts, has historically been held in January, even though federations typically begin their fiscal years in the fall. This year, UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey and the state’s 11 other Jewish federations coordinated to make Dec. 7 a statewide Super Sunday.

“It yields a more community-wide stress on the needs that are going on,” said Arlene Weiss, UJA-NNJ’s Super Sunday co-chair. “It gets the energy level higher. It’s Super Sunday everywhere in New Jersey this year.”

UJA-NNJ’s last Super Sunday, in January, raised $1.2 million, surpassing its $1.1 million goal. This year’s goal is set at $1 million. Organizers were optimistic that they would not only meet the goal, but also surpass it.

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Super Sunday co-chair Lauri Bader, left, UJA-NNJ campaign chair Zvi Marans, and Super Sunday co-chair Arlene Weiss

“When people see the need, they give,” Weiss said. “When they see all the good programs UJA does and the beneficiary agencies, they’ll give.”

In the past when that Super Sunday call came, many thought about their dollars going overseas to help Israelis, Jews in the former Soviet Union, and elsewhere. In addition to taking into account donors’ tightening budgets, Super Sunday organizers are readjusting their priorities.

“The needs have been [primarily] throughout the country and overseas, and now the needs are right here in our own community,” Weiss said.

In addition to raising money, this year’s fund-raiser will feature a kosher food drive for unopened and non-perishable food; a toiletries drive for items such as shampoo, toothpaste, and soap; and a baby basics drive to collect diapers, formula, and the like. As in past years, a blood drive will take place as well.

“It’s not only about raising money,” said co-chair Lauri Bader. “It’s also about community-building and participation.”

Organizers expect added difficulty in fund-raising this year because of the economy, but they remained hopeful that those who are able to help will answer the call.

“People have a visceral sense that a crisis exists,” said Zvi Marans, the federation’s campaign chair. “This is not a crisis that is occurring elsewhere; this is happening right here at home.”

According to Marans, the number of donors this fiscal year is down from last year, but contributions from donors who have previously given have increased by 10 percent.

“We’re optimistic that the community will come through and help cover the shortfalls that will occur from other donors who won’t be able to give at the same level as last year,” he said. “Those who are giving, are giving more and this reflects on the ability of this wonderful community to rise to the challenge.”

Jacob Toporek, executive director of the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, said that his organization is monitoring all of the economic stimulus packages in Trenton. Given that the state’s federations have decided to coordinate their Super Sunday fund-raisers, Toporek suggested that the economy is forcing “a jumpstart to the campaign.”

“There’s no doubt it’s going to be a difficult sell this year for many of the federations,” he said. “It may not be easy to have people open up their purses, but our [communities’] needs are still there.”

Organizers plan to run four shifts of solicitations from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and they expect to have at least 100 volunteers each shift. In addition to the volunteers, the day is traditionally marked by visits from politicians and other well-wishers.

While the economic turmoil is weighing on everybody’s minds, this Super Sunday is a celebratory time for UJA-NNJ as well. It is the first time that the event will take place in the federation’s new headquarters in Paramus, where UJA-NNJ moved in September. Its River Edge headquarters was too small to house the hundreds of volunteers, so the fund-raiser frequently took place elsewhere, lately in the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge. Its new building has more than enough space to house Super Sunday’s volunteers, equipment, and charity drives.

“Everything will be in one home, under one roof,” Weiss said.

For more information or to volunteer, call UJA-NNJ at (201) 488-6800.

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