By Jennifer Lader
One of the first of 135 volunteer to arrive early on the morning of January 27, Sheila Berg was ready to get down to business.
It was to be a record-breaking Super Sunday with over $71,000 pledged, a 40 percent increase over last year.
But for Berg, her role and its mission were simple. She chose a table festooned with candy and balloons, sat down and got out her cell phone.
“I love [making the calls] because it’s for the Federation,” she said.
Soon, Dr. Harvey Hakim walked in and joined her.
“We all have advantages from the Federation,” Hakim said, referring to the funds that, thanks to everyone in the community who donates, support the JCC, the Jewish Day School, the kosher food pantry at Jewish Family Service, the Family Life Education programs at many area synagogues, and help Jews and non-Jews in need locally and around the world.
Erin Corsa, who with her husband, Justin, is chair of the Federation’s Young Adult Division, looked even closer to home for her inspiration in making the calls: “Justin loves doing this.” She saved a seat for their pre-K son, Caleb, who showed up with paper and crayons, and for Dr. Nicole Rosenthal, her co-chair of the Ben Gurion Society, a donor recognition program for individuals ages 25 to 45.
By then, Corsa’s husband was sitting across from her, talking on the phone: “Would you give the same as last year … ,” Justin asked, “or a little bit more?” Although he successfully completed the call, Justin denied having any special talent for fundraising. “My job is easy,” he said, “because the Federation does a good job.”
He wasn’t the only one who thought so. At around 11 a.m., elected officials began arriving. JFLV Executive Director Mark L. Goldstein greeted each new arrival and the volunteers -- or at least those not on a call -- seconded that with enthusiastic applause.
After greeting Easton Mayor Sal Panto, Goldstein announced the arrival of our newest Congressional delegation representative, Matt Cartwright, who described to those gathered his children’s preschool years at the JCC of Scranton. Despite being raised Catholic, his children went to so many bar and bat mitzvahs, they questioned why they never had their own, he said.
When state Rep. Gary Day greeted those gathered and asked whether anyone was here from his district, Berg, the early arrival, cheered and he soon made his way over to her. That was only one of many happy meetings between officials and their constituents. Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan greeted Rabbi Allen Juda of Congregation Brith Sholom as he finished making a call, and state Rep. Mike Schlossberg read a selection from PJ Library to the children of volunteers.
Besides children’s activities, Niles Dubin offered massages for tired neck muscles and many callers took a timeout for that. Even though he hadn’t been visiting for long, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski got in line, perhaps only anticipating sore muscles.
When asked how he managed to avoid making calls this year, he indicated with a smile that he’d likely be on the phone soon. Late in the day, state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie took his turn on the telephone at a time when there were few volunteers left.
At one busy table that morning, Eva Levitt, Ilene Wood, Eileen Fischmann and Sandra Goldfarb were having great success: “You can pay any way you want,” Wood said into the phone, “You tell me what works for you.”
But Wood also understood when she heard from someone that money is tight this year. “Everyone’s money is important,” she said to the person on the other end of the line, “and it all adds up at the end of the day.”
Whether contributors can give $1 or $1,000, each showed their support for what the community does through the Federation.
This thought reassured some of the callers, as well as event co-chairs Jonathan and Iris Epstein, who might otherwise have found it difficult to ask for money. Jonathan voiced the thought that gave many of the Super Sunday volunteers the drive to make the call when he explained, “We’re helping people do a mitzvah.”
That message was understood loud and clear by the 393 donors, including 69 individuals who have not given in recent years, who responded to this year’s call with a generous donation.
At the conclusion of her call to the person having the tight year, Wood suggested, “How about donating chai?” meaning $18.
The response came back: “How about double chai?”