Jewish and Muslim Christmas Day of Community Service celebrates fifth year

Jewish and Muslim volunteers lend a hand at the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry — one of more than 20 volunteer sites organized for the day of service.

On Christmas Day, the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis and the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis (JCRC) and its Milford and Lee Bohm Social Justice Center are sponsoring the fifth annual St. Louis area-wide “Jewish and Muslim Day of Community Service.”

The two religious communities are working together again to organize and participate in a large-scale Christmas Day of Service project. Twenty-three agencies have been identified in the St. Louis area as sites that will host needed volunteers on Dec. 25.

  “This project brings together people of the Jewish and Muslim faiths,” said Sophie Malik, this year’s co-chair for the Islamic Foundation. “We want to show that our two faith communities are both dedicated to helping others and that we are committed to engaging in social justice work side by side as sisters and brothers.” 

“Another wonderful aspect of this program is that people of all faiths join us on Christmas as well,” added Jerry Hochsztein, co-chair for JCRC. “While Jews and Muslims organize the event, many Christians and those of other faiths also participate because the idea of giving to others on Christmas Day resonates strongly with them.”

Jewish and Muslim volunteers will be working together throughout the day at the various agencies. The event will kick off at 9 a.m. with a community breakfast at the Jewish Community Center Staenberg Arts & Education Building, 2 Millstone Campus Dr. in Creve Coeur. The breakfast will include a social action blessing and celebration of the purpose and meaning of the event.  Participants will leave from the breakfast to head to their community service sites.

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In addition to receiving support from area synagogues, mosques and other faith-based organizations, this year’s event is also being supported by a grant from the Staenberg Family Foundation. 

One of the new sites to participate this year is Magdelene St. Louis, an organization that provides housing and other support services to women who previously were victims of sexual trafficking, prostitution and life on the streets.  Volunteers will be making and sharing a meal with residents of the Magdelene St. Louis house. In addition to Magdelene St. Louis, other new sites this year include:

• Our Lady’s Inn: A residential facility serving pregnant women and their children suffering from homelessness.

• Delmar Gardens West: a nursing home

• Kol Rinah Congregation—a “make it” site where volunteers will put together Fresh Start bags for clients of Gateway 180 homeless shelter as they leave the shelter to go to their new homes.  

A complete list of supporting organizations can be found at jewishmuslimdayofservicestl.org. The site is also where potential volunteers can sign up to serve on Christmas Day.

Additionally, for others who wish to participate, the program includes a toiletry donation drive with six drop off sites:  Central Reform Congregation, Congregation Shaare Emeth, Daar Ul Islam Mosque, Temple Emanuel, Congregation Temple Israel and United Hebrew Congregation. Donations gathered at these sites will be dispersed among several area non-profits that are sites for the Jewish and Muslim Day of Service, including Ronald McDonald House at Mercy Hospital and the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry.  More information on toiletry items needed is at jcrcstl.org/bohm.php. Toiletry collections end Dec. 18. 

Those wishing to participate on Dec. 25 need to sign up online by Dec. 13.

For more information about donating to this event or to sign up online, visit jewishmuslimdayofservicestl.org or contact Gail Wechsler, JCRC Director of Domestic Issues/Social Justice, at 314-442-3894.