For the 14th consecutive year, Jewish volunteers will spend time helping at various charities in the region on Christmas Day. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh coordinates the events not only to help those who benefit from the work, but also to give a day off to the charities’ employees.
“Mitzvah days are done around the country in different Jewish federations. Jewish people are always looking for something to do on Christmas Day other than eat Chinese food and go to the movies,” said the federation’s Volunteer Center Coordinator Jenny Jones.
Mitzvah, the Hebrew word for good deed, is the center’s largest volunteer event of the year with an average of more than 500 individuals working at 75 sites. Jones said a majority of the participating sites are volunteer-driven and depend on extra help during the holidays.
“People feel really good about doing something on a holiday. You know, I think the other big thing is we’re letting paid employees have off to be with their family,” Jones said.
Jones said while it is a fun day, people are very eager to get out and help.
“So in Squirrel Hill we are making 500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to be donated to after-school programs. We’re also assembling 50 birthday bags which will be donated to kids at the Squirrel Hill food pantry,” Jones said.
The volunteer opportunities are organized by traditional Jewish values including honoring the elderly, feeding the hungry and caring for animals.
“Of course we’re the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, so we like to be able to educate and teach people a Jewish value and to explain that that’s really important to us,” she said.
Every year volunteers participate in a variety of jobs including serving food, singing with senior citizens or coordinating an art project.