Luna Diamond sat at her beige push-button telephone at the end of one of the long tables in a downtown hotel room yesterday, oblivious to the controlled chaos surrounding her.
"Hello, I'm calling for 'Super Sunday,' " she began in a pleasant voice. Briskly she delivered a spiel about the United Jewish Appeal and its support of Jewish causes, "not only communitywide, but worldwide."
Scanning the computer card in front of her, she continued: "You pledged last year. Would you consider increasing that this year? . . . You would? Thank you! That's wonderful!"
"He gave $100 more," she exclaimed as she hung up the telephone and recorded the amount on the pledge card.
Diamond, a retired government worker who said that she serves on the boards of 18 organizations in this area, was one of almost 2,000 volunteers who helped solicit funds yesterday in the seventh annual Super Sunday campaign of the United Jewish Appeal Federation. The agency has a track record of a 97 percent redemption rate on Super Sunday pledges, according to officials.
When the drive ended at 9 p.m. yesterday, Diamond and her fellow volunteers had racked up a total of $3.64 million in pledges, $1.5 million more than last year's Super Sunday total.
The federation functions as a sort of united fund for the Jewish community, raising money to support Jewish educational, community relations and social service programs in the Washington area and around the world.
The money goes for causes as diverse as Jewish-oriented day care centers in the Washington area, packets of food and clothing for elderly and destitute Holocaust survivors in Poland and Romania, and old-age homes in Israel.
Yesterday's effort to contact 55,000 Jewish households, a list assembled from previous contributors and Jewish organizations, was marked by a high degree of organization.
Volunteers sat elbow to elbow, manning the phones on each side of long tables that stretched the length of the Capitol Hilton's Congressional Room.
At one end of the room was a table fitted with teletype equipment, where deaf volunteers contacted hearing-impaired donors. And Russian immigrants solicited contributions from Soviet Jews who have settled in this area.
Along one wall was a table marked "New Gifts," where specially trained volunteers contacted persons who had never contributed. Across the room was another table of volunteers whose task was to field questions about Ethiopian Jews.
Mentally handicapped adults from Jewish group homes operated by federation funds, and children as young as 9, squeezed between the tables collecting completed pledge cards and names that had been flagged for returning calls on the Ethiopian situation. In 45-minute briefing sessions, the volunteers had been advised not to let themselves be distracted by questions.
Day care was available for volunteers' children who were younger than 9.
Every half hour or so the mounting total of pledges was posted, contributing to the air of satisfaction that pervaded the room.
The volunteers were scheduled for two-hour shifts, but some, such as Diamond, stayed at it all day.
"Last year I raised . . . oh, I think it was $57,000," she recalled proudly.
"Sometimes I think that the money is not as important as what happens here," said Joel Breslau, a Montgomery County businessman who is president of the federation.
Jews "are not a minority as we used to be," he said, pointing out that "we're a minority that's made it" into the mainstream. He explained that Jews have become an integral part of society today.
"Still," he continued, "it's a nice feeling to come together with some of my brothers."
For some of the volunteers, participating in Super Sunday "is the only thing they do all year that's specifically Jewish," Breslau declared.
(National Caucus of Labor Committees photo) 150 other cities since the Washington group originated it seven years ago, brings together members of the Jewish community "who would not mix under ordinary circumstances," Breslau said, adding, "They come down here to do what they can do."