The phone room was buzzing with exuberance as a 300-plus army of volunteers punched their telephone keypads and sounded the call for donations in UJA Federation of North Jersey’s annual Super Sunday fund-raiser.
“It was a fantastic day, with a lot of energy,” said Howard Chernin, event co-chair. “We accomplished a lot of good things for the Jewish community.”
The amount raised was still being tallied on Wednesday, but it was expected to exceed the $1 million goal, said Howard Charish, federation executive vice president.
|Shalyn Gallatin of Wyckoff calls the old fashioned way, while Dan Shlufman of Tenafly texts an appeal. Photos by Charles Zusman
Participation spanned the generations. George Hantgan, 94, took part in his 60th Sunday fund-raiser and was honored with a plaque for his years of service. (See related story.
Taking part as a family and at the other end of the age spectrum, were the Goodman sisters of Paramus, Rivke and Miri, 10, Laili, 7, and Sari 4. The girls gave contributions themselves, saved from their allowances, then served as assistants on the phone floor, collecting pledge cards from the callers. They were accompanied by their father, David Goodman.
“We like to treat other people the way we like to be treated,” explained Miri.
What do you call what you’re doing, the girls were asked. Rivke thought a minute: “A mitzvah,” she said.
A group from the Bergen County High School of Jewish studies was part of the youth contingent. “I believe it’s important for the Jewish community of New Jersey, and it’s a good cause,” said Zach Lang, 16. Israel Scouts from Fair Lawn and Tenafly also manned the phones.
A contingent from Hillel at William Paterson University was there: Adam Kleinman, Meliss Brown, Allison Warburg, Solomon Pinskur, and Marissa Zubalsky.
New this year was collecting for a special fund for assistance to victims of the recent devastating forest fire in Israel. Contributions to that fund were expected to be in the “tens of thousands,” said Charish, as pledges still were coming in by mail.
Three settlements are in line for long-term aid – Yemin Orde, Ein Hod, and Kibbutz Beit Oren – said Stuart Levy, community shaliach at the UJA-NNJ
|The Goodman sisters of Paramus brought donations saved from their allowances. From left they are Rivke and Miri, 10, Laili, 7, and Sari, 4.
Sharyn Gallatin of Wyckoff recalled working the phones last year and said that “people seem more willing to give this year. It’s very gratifying.” One woman tripled her gift, Gallatin said.
Sitting next to her, Dan Shlufman of Tenafly gave a nod to technology and pressed his Blackberry into service. He texted an appeal to someone and got a hefty pledge back in return.
He said while rejections get him down, a positive response gives him a second wind and he keeps on calling.
The fund-raiser was a two-way affair. In his instructions to the callers, co-chair Chernin said if those called said they couldn’t give because of their own problems, the callers should ask if perhaps those on the other end of the line needed help themselves. Representatives of Jewish Family Services were on hand for referrals.
Money was not the only way to give, and Perry Bindelglass of Franklin Lakes donated blood to North Jersey Community Blood Services in their van parked in the UJA-NNJ parking lot.
“I try to give as often as I can, and there is no better time than the present,” said Bindelglass, who was also volunteering his time on the phones.
While party politics may be the norm in Washington, the tone in Paramus was bipartisan, with politicians from both major parties taking a turn at the phones.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, a Republican, gave a brief address and then was eager to get down to business. “Thanks for inviting me and give me a phone,” she said.
In remarks to this reporter, she said that the poor state of the economy makes it ever more important for organizations like UJA-NNJ to continue charitable work, “filling the gap that government can no longer fill.”
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Dist. 37) sounded the same theme, saying cuts in government budgets and social services make charitable work vital. She cited new statistics reporting a rise in child poverty in Bergen County from 5.5 percent to 7 percent.
“If we don’t have organizations like the UJA, it’s going to be much worse,” she said.
Weinberg was joined by Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Dist. 37). Charity is the “ultimate gift,” he said. “The Bible, the Koran, and the Torah all talk about helping those less fortunate,” he added.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to ask people to give to a greater cause,” said Freeholder-Elect John Felice, a River Edge resident. “We’re all brothers and sisters. We have much more in common than we have differences.”
Other political leaders attending included new County Executive Kathleen Donovan, State Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Dist. 38), Hawthorne Mayor Richard Goldberg, Closter Mayor Sophie Heymann, and Bergen County Freeholder John Driscoll. State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-Dist. 32) was represented by Linda Quentzel.
Charities served by the federation break down to 62 percent for domestic recipients and 38 percent for Israel and other overseas recipients, according to UJA-NNJ. Domestically, the beneficiaries include those made needy by the economic downturn, senior services, Jewish education, and Jewish life on campus. Overseas, the money goes to aiding vulnerable Jewish populations around the world, residents of the former Soviet Union, the absorption of refugees in Israel, and Nahariya, the UJA-NNJ’s partner city in Israel.