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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


February 13, 2015  RSS feed
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Text: T T T

Super Sunday callers: Give so Federation can do good deeds

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press

In light of the rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza last summer, the recent terrorism in Paris, rising anti-Semitism in many places and the potential nuclear threat from Iran, Toni Rinde expected an easier go of it on Super Sunday, Feb. 8.

For years, she and other volunteers have called members of the local Jewish community on Super Sunday to seek donations to the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pinellas Counties Annual Campaign. This year, like many in the past, volunteers gathered at Superior Uniform Group in Seminole to make calls.

Since the nation is emerging from a deep great recession, one might expect the pitch for donations would be easier, but Rinde and other callers found it was no piece of cake this year.

The goal on Sunday was to accumulate $75,000 in pledges toward an overall campaign goal of $1 million. By end of Super Sunday, a total of $60,000 was pledged, but some folks, including Rinde, took cards home, saying they would continue to reach those they could not earlier in the day. The overall fundraising is at about $645,000 and Federation Executive Director Mark Segel says the campaign will continue until the goal is met.

Super Sunday callers take a lunch break after soliciting donations from members of the Jewish community in Pinellas and Pasco counties. A total of 26 volunteer callers secured more than $60,000 in pledges on Sunday, Feb. 8. Super Sunday callers take a lunch break after soliciting donations from members of the Jewish community in Pinellas and Pasco counties. A total of 26 volunteer callers secured more than $60,000 in pledges on Sunday, Feb. 8. Because of her many connections with the community, Rinde calls many she knows personally and are reliable supporters. This year she again made those calls, as well as to some folks who do not know her. For those she reached, many upped their donations a bit. In one case she reached a man in the middle of a conference and she knew he had no time to talk. “I told him I need your $1,000 for the campaign and he said ‘OK’ and that was it,” she said.

Margot Benstock and Lewis Kroll Margot Benstock and Lewis Kroll But what Rinde found frustrating was the vast amount of unanswered calls. “People are just not responding,” she said, adding that she suspected they had caller ID, knew why they were being called and did not want to commit to a pledge. “With all the rising anti-Semitism and all the threats to Israel and Jewish communities around the world, you would think people would be more responsive,” she said.

Her good friend, Margot Benstock, whose husband is CEO of Superior Uniform and lets the Federation use it as a call center, agreed with Rinde that unanswered calls were a problem and that there seemed to be more this year than in the past.

She pointed out the good that the Federation does in the local community, as well as for Israel and wondered if folks were less responsive because as Jewish people assimilate into the general population, Jewish causes are not as important as they once were. She also noted that some of the long-time pillars of the Jewish community are reaching advanced ages and she worries there are not enough younger people to step in and replace that level of giving and commitment to the community.

Daniel DeFrank Daniel DeFrank In addition to support for Israel and Jews in crisis throughout the world, Annual Campaign funds assist local agencies such as Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services and programs such as the kosher Shabbat meals at Philip Benjamin Tower for seniors, the PJ Library to provide kids books monthly and the Federation’s Young Adult Division.

The Federation also supports Jewish camper scholarships, a training program to foster the next generation of leaders, Taglit Birthright to send college-age students to Israel, the Jewish Community Relations Council, which speaks up for Jews and Israel in the media and community; Jewish Press and other community building activities.

A large number of Jews in the area are unaffiliated and their contact with Jewish organizations is limited. Part of the reason for the calls is not so much for the small donations they may make, but for the opportunity to reconnect them to the Jewish community and, if they have needs, to help direct them to services that can help.

Gail Allen, who is family support coordinator at Gulf Coast, said she volunteered to call because she is appreciative of the Federation’s support to her agency. “I would not be able to help the community without the help of the Federation, and we help many, through emergency rent assistance, utility assistance, medical and dental assistance,” she said.

In addition to taking pledges, this year callers asked respondents if they would answer a brief survey. “When they hear the survey questions, they hear of many things we do for the Jewish community and hopefully that gives them a better understanding of what we do and why we need their support,” said Elana Gootsen, the Federation’s director of development.

Lisa Kalman said the survey response from one of her callers was typical of other respondents. “He said all the programs mentioned in the survey were of equal importance,” she said.

Pamela Katz-Alston, a volunteer from Temple Beth-El, began her calls with a goal of getting $3,000 in pledges. As she neared that goal, a fellow volunteer engaged in friendly competition and Katz-Alston responded by revising her goal to $10,000 in pledges – not an easy task given that many she called were on limited incomes. In one case, she called a friend who she knew was not wealthy, but managed to get her to double her pledge.

Though the amount raised this year, or in any years past, by the Super Sunday calling campaign is not a significant part of the overall annual campaign goal, Karen Reich, president of the Federation, said it is still an important event.

She noted it is a great opportunity to reach a wide spectrum of the community not just to seek donations, but to let them know of the work the Federation does and of how much more they could do to build the local Jewish community with more donations.

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