The Grand Ballroom at the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue teemed with volunteers. College students from area Hillels were stationed at three long tables. High school students in numerous groupings worked from prepared scripts as they dialed each new number. Families banded together, using banks of phones to get the message out.
From young to old, all of these people were focused on one goal: to raise money to help Jews.
Some 800 volunteers showed up last weekend for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Super Sunday phonathon, the year's main fundraising push.
At three different locations — the Hilton, Abrams Hebrew Academy in Yardley and the NCO Group in Horsham — callers raised $1,306,925 from 4,634 donors for Federation's myriad programs that benefit Jews in the Philadelphia area, in Israel and around the world.
"It shows the community how supportive we are," said Jeffrey L. Perlman, who co-chaired Super Sunday with Mary Relles. "Everybody's here to pursue one cause: to raise money for the Jewish community."
The funds will go to a variety of causes, from helping needy families in the area, to supporting educational programs for kids and seniors, to helping Israeli efforts to rebuild damaged communities after last summer's war with Hezbollah.
"I think that the message is getting out," announced Perlman. "We're a community that works together."
Rabbi David Gutterman, president of the Vaad: Board of Rabbis, offered a religious perspective, praising the ability to "transcend synagogue and transcend street" with members of Jewish movements, groups and agencies working toward the same goal.
That unity, he added, echoed a tenet of the Talmud: "All of Israel is inextricably linked to one another."
"The fact that we have [such] variety within the Jewish community is remarkable," said Federation CEO and President Ira M. Schwartz of the differing people who pitched in to offer their assistance.
University of Pennsylvania senior Ezra Billinkoff was one of six members of Penn's Hillel to donate his time. "It only makes sense that we give back a little bit," he said, noting the considerable support that Federation has given the group through the years.
And there's the necessity of supporting those in need, added the student.
President of Temple University's Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity Marc Prine also espoused the need to support Federation, since the organization so often assists the fraternity by funding programs and other events.
"They're always there for us," he said. "We'll always do something to help them."
Daniel Green, 16, came to Super Sunday as part of the Satell Teen Fellows, a Jewish Community High School of Gratz College program that teaches leadership development and social activism.
Keeping It Moving
"I think it's critical for the Jewish community to give," said the Lower Moreland High School student. "Generation to generation, we're keeping the Jewish community moving."
For Zac Grosbard, 17, another Satell Fellow, the calls allowed him to utilize the public-speaking skills the group had worked on, as well as give everyone an opportunity to do good work.
"We take care of our own — and that's a great thing," he said.
"They are volunteering their time to make the Jewish community better," replied Kathy Elias of the Jewish Outreach Partnership. "We need to teach our children that this is part of being in the Jewish community."
But the younger generations weren't the only ones working at each location; their elders were doing their part as well.
Roy Shenberg of Ardmore lent his expertise in organizing the paperwork. In the process, he noticed some friendly competition going on between the young people to see who could get the most pledges.
Shenberg praised them all for their efforts: "It's great to see such an interest in Judaism."
"It has to be sustained," he said of Jewish culture as a whole. "[This is] the present and the future."