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Members of other faiths help Christians celebrate Christmas

PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2011 12:30 am
by BlueWater

The 13-year-old resident of suburban West Bloomfield was one of about two dozen volunteers from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit who helped prepare and serve a festive holiday meal to less-fortunate people.

It was part of the organization's annual Mitzvah Day program, the largest single day of volunteering by the region's Jewish community, which enables Christians to spend the holiday at home with their loved ones, according to the federation. This year, about 1,000 Jewish volunteers joined forces with their Muslim neighbors.

"Mitzvah" means "good deed" or "commandment" in Hebrew.

"We come here every Christmas. It's a tradition," said Ari, who arrived at the church with his mother and 7-year-old brother at 8:30 a.m. "It's important to help people in need."

The outreach in Detroit was one of many efforts nationwide by worshipers to join forces. In Tacoma, Wash., two declining congregations knew that unless a dramatic change took place, their two churches would run out of money and die. More than 180 combined years of history and tradition would be lost.

Re: Members of other faiths help Christians celebrate Christmas

PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2011 12:30 am
by BlueWater
Instead of giving up, the people of Sixth Avenue and St. Paul's United Methodist churches let go of their buildings and merged into a larger, growing congregation.

This holiday season, there's a new sense of joy and hope, members say. At services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the two groups from opposite sides of Tacoma celebrated their first Christmas together as a merged congregation.

Margaret McGrath, 84, a member of Sixth Avenue Methodist for 50 years, said she is happier, hopeful and more relaxed. "We're not worrying about if the bills are going to get paid," she said. "I think we're alive and well."

In Detroit, other Mitzvah Day volunteer opportunities included sorting books for the annual Bookstock used book and media sale, delivering holiday meals to homebound seniors, sorting food at Gleaners Community Food Bank and serving meals to veterans at Piquette Square in Detroit, Jewish Federation spokeswoman Beverly Phillips said.

In southwest Detroit, about 700 people got to play Santa Claus for 215 families. They gathered to get big plastic bags filled with toys and clothing to give to underprivileged children.

Santa's elves? Volunteers from the United Council of Islamic Societies, the Jewish Federation and several area churches.

Sarah Youssef, 26, a University of Michigan nursing student, was a first-time volunteer. She delivered gifts to five families in the neighborhood.

"It's nice to have everyone come together," she said, "especially at Christmas. It's not my holiday. It's nice to give back and do some of the work to make someone else's day."